AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
1. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUBMISSION AND ALIGNMENT?
Submission is a general term for acknowledging that God is superior to us and taking a subservient position to Him. There are levels of submission. We can submit to God partially or completely. Submission can also be driven by a variety of motivations. We can submit out of love, we can submit out of fear, we can submit as an effort to manipulate, etc.. The kind of submission that pleases God most is total submission which is motivated by reverence, love, and a desire please Him.
Alignment is a specific form of submission which is driven by a desire to please God. Alignment is when your soul attitude towards God is: “I want You to have Your way in my life. Pleasing You is more important than pleasing myself.” Alignment is the opposite of rebellion. Spiritual rebellion is when your soul attitude is, “I don’t care what You want. I’m doing things my own way.”
2. IS IT POSSIBLE TO SUBMIT TO GOD WITHOUT BEING IN ALIGNMENT WITH HIM?
Yes. Demons hate God, yet they submit to Him all the time by carrying out His specific orders. Their motivation for submitting to God is a fear of punishment. If God wasn’t so powerful, demons would not bother with submitting to Him. But because they know He has the power to throw them into Hell, they grudgingly obey Him. We find many examples of this in the Gospels, where demons are described as leaving their human hosts at Jesus’ command and obeying Jesus’ orders to stop advertising the fact that He is God.
When we grudgingly do something that God is convicting us to do, yet inwardly we’re hating Him and wishing He would get out of our lives, we’re practicing submission while inwardly harboring an attitude of rebellion. In the Bible when we read about God pounding Israel with hardships until all the Jews start crying out to Him for mercy and repenting of their sins, those are examples of a rebellious people practicing submission. The Jews only went through the motions of repentance, by praying dramatic prayers, tearing their clothes, and fasting. But inwardly they weren’t at all sorry for what they’d done. They just wanted God to rescue them from their enemies. As soon as they got what they wanted, we see their submission evaporate.
The fervent prayers that people pray in emergency situations are a good example of submission without alignment. A man might spend his life ignoring God, yet when a crisis arises, he is suddenly making God all kinds of deals and acting like he truly cares about cleaning up his act. Once the crisis is over, the man’s submission ceases and he continues wallowing in his rebellious heart attitude which never changed.
3. IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A NEUTRAL STANCE TOWARDS GOD—TO NOT BE REBELLIOUS OR IN ALIGNMENT?
This is only possible at the beginning of our lives on earth, before the Holy Spirit begins to illuminate our souls with truth. As soon as the Holy Spirit begins speaking to our souls, our souls must choose to either accept or reject what He is saying. To accept is alignment. To reject is rebellion. As soon as God starts communicating with us, it becomes impossible to hold a neutral stance towards Him. This is because there is never a situation in which communication between our souls and God fails.
Now on earth, we’re used to communication constantly failing. When a friend calls out to you, if you’re deep in thought, or running the vacuum cleaner, you honestly don’t register the sound of her voice. In this age of cell phones, we’re very familiar with bad connections and voices cutting in and out. Our struggle to communicate with each other on earth makes it hard for us to grasp the idea that our souls and God never have interference between them. The fact that our physical brains are mentally out of touch with much of what goes on between our souls and God adds another layer of confusion. Many Christians swear God never talks to them, even though the reality is that He’s talking to them all the time. When they claim He doesn’t, what they’re really talking about is a conscious awareness of His Voice speaking to them in their physical brains. Yet our brains are entirely separate from our souls, and our souls are what we are judged by. From God’s perspective, He is constantly communicating with our souls and our souls are constantly responding to Him in receptive or hostile ways. Once the communication begins, neutrality is no longer an option. Though we can pretend on a conscious level that we don’t hear God speaking to us, to try and ignore God on a soul level is just another form of rebellion. God is not like a human mother who can be fooled when her rebellious son lies and says, “I didn’t hear you ask me to wash the dishes.” God knows when we have heard Him.
4. WHAT KIND OF SUBMISSION IS REQUIRED FOR SALVATION?
Before you can obtain salvation, you must submit to all three of your Creators. Simply acknowledging that there is a God or even acknowledging that Jesus is God won’t get you saved. You have to acquire a certain level of understanding about who your Creators are and what They want from you before you can properly submit to Them.
Salvation can be compared to a student taking a set of exams in order to earn a certain degree. The student must first take certain courses before he can gain the understanding he will need to correctly answer the questions on the exam. If the student only takes a few courses and then drops out and decides not to finish, he’ll never get his degree. If the student takes all the courses, yet refuses to take the test, he’ll never get his degree. If the student doesn’t pay attention to his teachers when he attends class, he’ll never get a passing grade, and he’ll never get his degree. Getting the degree is a process which requires a lot of attentive listening, cooperation, and submission on the part of the student.
In the same way, salvation is a process which requires a lot of attentive listening, agreeing with and submitting to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the One who gives us the education we need in order to meet our Gods’ requirements for salvation. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t just download all the information we need into our brains all at once. Instead, He teaches us one bit at a time. We have to respond well to what He has already taught us before He will teach us more. If we keep rejecting what He’s saying, we end up stalled in the learning process. If we reject Him for too long, the Holy Spirit gives up on us and refuses to ever teach us anymore. This is how we end up eternally condemned. It is a very dangerous gamble to test the Holy Spirit’s patience, for He treats us all differently, and He makes no guarantees about how many chances He will give an individual soul to cooperate with Him.
Now in real life, most souls choose to rebel against the Holy Spirit by rejecting what He’s teaching them. This is why most souls end up in Hell. It isn’t because they were never presented with truth, it’s because they refused to accept the truth they were given.
Souls turn away from the Holy Spirit at different points in the education process. Someone might accept the idea that God is real, but refuse to accept who God is. Others might go so far as to accept that Jesus, Yahweh and the Holy Spirit are Gods, yet refuse to accept that they deserve to burn in Hell for their sins. It’s quite possible to have a very clear understanding of the entire Gospel message yet end up in Hell for refusing to submit to God. To understand that Jesus died for the sins of the world is an entirely separate thing than personally submitting to Jesus in your own heart and agreeing that you need Him to atone for your sins because you have no hope of ever earning salvation through good works.
Once a man has sufficient understanding about facts, he can put on a very convincing act of being saved. After all, how do you try and assess whether someone else is saved or not? You listen to how they talk. You observe how they behave. If they seem to know their Bible well and if they make a lot of God-honoring statements, you assume that they have a good relationship with God in their souls. Yet in reality, talk is cheap, and many who claim to care about honoring God are utterly despising Him on a soul level. It is a very easy thing for the unsaved to become pastors and leaders in the Church. Today Christians are so poorly educated on the contents of their own Scriptures that any man who is willing to apply himself can easily wow souls into thinking he is some brilliant bible scholar. It just isn’t hard to fake Christianity. Despite what the New Testament apostles try to tell you, the validity of a person’s salvation can’t be proven by the way they behave or by the things they say. There are scores of souls in the Church today who say “Jesus is Lord” when they don’t really believe He is Lord at all. There are scores who claim to want to further the Kingdom, when all they really care about is beefing up their own bank accounts. As soon as we start trying to assess spiritual health by external behavior, we fall into all sorts of delusions. It doesn’t matter how many facts a man has in his head about who God is and what He wants. Salvation is a matter of a man’s soul submitting to his Creators on certain essential truths. If any of those truths are rejected, salvation is withheld.
5. CAN AN UNSAVED PERSON BE IN ALIGNMENT WITH GOD?
Yes, because alignment is a form of submission in which our soul attitude is “I want You to have Your way in my life. Pleasing You is more important than pleasing myself.” Without alignment, an unsaved soul will never reach the point of salvation. The true Gospel message is filled with pride-grinding concepts. We don’t enjoy agreeing with God’s assessment of us as depraved wretches who deserve to burn in Hell. Getting saved is all about obtaining God’s pleasure. Now at first we just want Him to be pleased with us so He won’t throw us into Hell. Our initial submission is usually fear driven, not love driven. But for some souls, there is more than fear in the mix because of the way God has presented Himself to them. Some souls begin the relationship with a greater understanding of how loving God is, and they sincerely want to love God back right from the beginning. Other souls do not understand God’s loving side, and they submit only out of fear of His wrath. Just as a woman can enter into a marriage with a wide range of perspectives about her husband, so also we enter into our relationships with God with a wide range of understanding and expectations. Some of us don’t realize it is ever possible to develop an intimate relationship with God because we haven’t reached that point in our spiritual education. Some of us start off very confident that God loves and cherishes us. But wherever we start, we can all experience the relationship deepening into a very wonderful thing by continuing our education with the Holy Spirit.
6. IS CONTINUOUS ALIGNMENT NECESSARY TO REMAIN SAVED?
Under the current Covenant, salvation is permanent. Once our Creators declare us to be saved, nothing we do or fail to do will change Their minds about us. This is a rule which They have created. Should They choose to change Their Covenant (again), the rules could change. But for now, salvation is permanent.
Under the Old Covenant—the one that Yahweh set up with the Jews through Moses—salvation was not permanent. Under the Old Covenant, what your attitude was towards Yahweh at the time of your death was what determined where you ended up in eternity. Yahweh would save any soul who died in a state of sufficient submission to Him, but He said He would withhold salvation from any soul who died in a state of willful defiance. If a soul started off gung ho for God only to later decide he was just not interested anymore, his salvation would be revoked.
Under the New Covenant, salvation is obtained by submitting to all three of our Creators and agreeing with a list of specific truths. The list of truths we must align with under this Covenant is much longer than the truths people had to align with under the Old Covenant. This is because today Yahweh has revealed three Gods to us. Back then, He had only revealed one God. Today we have to respond specifically to Jesus’ death on a cross. Before Christ, no one had even heard of a cross. Today we have to respond to the concept of future atonement. Under the Old Covenant, there was no such thing as future atonement for sins. Only past sins could be atoned for as they occurred. Today we have to acknowledge the Holy Spirit as a God who is separate from Yahweh and Jesus. Under the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit was considered a mere extension of Yahweh. We’ve been given a lot more information about who our Gods are under this New Covenant, and that affects what we must do to obtain salvation. But once we do obtain salvation, it becomes our permanent state of being, not something which we slip in and out of.
Continuous alignment is not necessary to keep salvation because there is no concept of “keeping” or “losing” salvation under this Covenant. After we are saved, we spend the rest of our time on earth choosing between rebellion and alignment. How pleased our Creators will be with us in eternity will be a direct result of how much time we spent in alignment with Them on earth. If we chose to spend the majority of our time rebelling against Them, we will still be granted admission to Heaven, but we will also experience negative consequences for our defiance on earth. Our Gods are not doormats. They have boundaries, and They will not be mocked. Jesus was very clear in the Gospels that all believers will not be equal in Heaven (see The Eternal Cost of Defying God: A Warning for Christians).
7. CAN WE BE IN ALIGNMENT WITH GOD WHILE WE’RE SINNING?
It depends on how we define sin. God uses multiple definitions of sin. Earthsuit actions and attitudes which fail to align with God’s moral standard are sins, and these things are what we are usually referring to when we discuss sin in the Church today. For example, if you stab your mother with a knife, that is a sin in God’s eyes. If you secretly wish your friend’s marriage would end in misery, that is a sin in God’s eyes.
As long as we are defining sin this way, it is very possible to be in alignment with God while you are sinning. Alignment is a soul attitude. Your soul is separate from your earthsuit. Your soul and your earthsuit each have a will of their own and often their agendas conflict. Without God’s help, your soul cannot force your earthsuit to align with its agenda. When your soul longs to please God, yet your earthsuit is serving itself, you are sinning while in a state of alignment. This happens to Christians all the time. When your friend snaps at you, your soul says, “I want to be gracious and just let that comment go.” But your flesh says, “She was rude to me! I’ll give her a piece of my mind!” Your tongue and vocal cords are part of your flesh. Your flesh can easily override your soul. So unless God provides you with some supernatural help, nasty words are going to fly out of your mouth while your soul internally groans.
A common misconception among Christians is that God will judge us by the actions of our earthsuits in eternity. If this were true, we would have no hope of pleasing God on earth because we simply can’t control our flesh on our own. But fortunately for us, God is only going to judge us by our soul’s response to Him. In the scenario we gave, your soul longed to obey God. It didn’t want to be rude to your friend. Instead, it wanted to honor God by being gracious. In such a scenario, God would count your soul as being obedient towards Him. We are judged only by our souls, not by our ability to control our flesh. For more about this, see Pleasing God When You Can’t Control Your Flesh.
8. WHAT IS REVERENTIAL SUBMISSION?
There are many possible motivations for submitting to God. Reverence is a respect for God which is driven by fear of His awesome power. Reverential submission refers to submission which is motivated by reverence. It is impossible to please God without reverential submission because to not revere God would mean you’d have to deny who He is and what He is capable of. For more about this, see Why We Must Fear God.