Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Moment on Authority

You got a problem with it?

I have no problem opening a can of worms.
Sometimes it is the only way to work something out. Open it up. Pour it out. Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle. We will find that some subjects within the graph of our lives will be messy. And, as Paul suggests to his Philippian audience, " out your salvation..." Here comes a messy subject that will force us to work it out in the everyday of our lives.

Authority is something that many of us struggle with as we live our lives on this earth.
The word brings to mind people or a company or a boss that we really wish we did not have to listen to. The struggle with authority stems from the notion that we know more than the person who is actually the penman on the subject. Hey, we've all be there for the moments when someone who is given authority has abused their power. The title given to a person can go to their head and the word they need to do becomes more about the title in front of their name than the actual work that needs to get done. The abuse of such power can cause us to not think much of a certain position or person.

What we will aim to understand in this message is the nature of true authority.
And, I think the answers will be a relief and a game changer for many.

Lets look at some scripture and then a definition to grasp the context we are covering.
A couple weeks ago we took a run through the book of Romans. We covered the first twelve chapters. The 13th chapter is where today's scripture comes from. It is part of Paul's closing remarks to those whom he has given instructions about living this Christian life. If we are truly living this life the way we are supposed to then we give our lives over to not just God (remember Paul calling for them to be a "living sacrifice" in Chap 12) but to also follow the authority of those governing over them.

Romans 13:1-7

New International Version (NIV)

Submission to Governing Authorities

13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

What truly is authority?  Does the subject entail someone to tell everyone else what to do? Is it really that complex? There is a base word that can be seen in the make-up of the word. Author. Does that have anything to do with understanding what the word means? Lets take a closer look.

Full Definition of AUTHOR

1 a :  one that originates or creates :  source <software authors> <film authors> <the author of this crime>
  b capitalized :  god 1
2:  the writer of a literary work (as a book)

Seems pretty simple. If you are the one who "wrote the book" on a subject, as the phrase interjects, then you become the authority on that subject. Nobody knows more about said subject than you. Many of us have heard the old phrase, "Jack of all Trades, Master of None". There are plenty of folks who have the ability to do a plethora of things, but don't want to be considered the authority on anything. What is it about authority that makes our skin crawl? Look at this...

Full Definition of AUTHORITY

1  a (1) :  a citation (as from a book or file) used in defense or support (2) :  the source from which the citation is drawn
   b (1) :  a conclusive statement or set of statements (as an official decision of a court) (2) :  a decision taken as a precedent (3) :  testimony
   c :  an individual cited or appealed to as an expert
2 a :  power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior
   b :  freedom granted by one in authority :  right
3 a :  persons in command; specifically :  government
   b :  a governmental agency or corporation to administer a revenue-producing public enterprise <the transit authority>
4 a :  grounds, warrant <had excellent authority for believing the claim>
   b :  convincing force <lent authority to the performance>
 Hmmm. Well, the author idea holds up to the first line of the definition. And, line c shows us that sometimes the authority is an actual person. It should be noted that authority does not always come from a person. Cited material might have been written by a person, however the material can then speak for itself and be held up as an authority. What about our bible? We shall delve into that area next week. The bible holds up as an authority to govern our lives. God has given inspiration to these scriptures. Long ago, chambers full of believers decreed that this book has what we need to hear. For centuries this book has had the power to guide us and direct us along the pathways of life. There is an unshakeable certainty as to the life giving ability the words in this book has for us. Read it for awhile and see if God speaks to you and shows you what you need to hear.

Line 2 of our definition speaks heavily to the subject matter we discussed in Romans a couple weeks ago. Sin was the authority for our lives. Sin wrote a nice book on how our lives should be lived. It even got together with death and put together a nice eulogy for us. Christ came along and broke the authority that sin had over us. Sin is dead. Christ is alive. We need to believe what Christ has done for us and let that belief be the authority that governs our lives. Recall Paul's words in Romans 8...

"For you have not been given a spirit of fear, that you should fall back into slavery, but you have been given a spirit of sonship, by where we cry, "Abba, Father".
Do you recall what Paul said about the Law? The actual law, as God gave it. The law of sin. The law of death. Then there was the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Many different authorities are mentioned through these passages. The law knows all. Law is written so that it can be a know-it-all source. Our govern authorities, such as the police, are called "the authorities" not because they have the power to make us do anything, but because they are the ones who know without a shadow of doubt, what we are supposed to be doing. If they have to make an arrest because someone has broken the law, then that's what they have to do. When we have gone against the authority over us, in the spiritual manner that we speak of, then our God allows us to be punished, with a purpose in mind.

Revelation 3:19

New International Version (NIV)
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
 Hear this verse also...

Hebrews 12:11

New International Version (NIV)
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

This opens the door to another subject for another Sunday. God is the Authority. The Almighty is the Author and Creator of all. In doing so, God becomes our "father". God gave us life and breath. In the infamous words of Bill Cosby, as Heathcliff Huxtable speaking to his son, Theo, "I brought you in this world, I'll take you out." The Author of our lives has a plan for our lives, also. To be conformed to the image of His Son. What does image mean? We talked about that last week. Being made into the image of God means taking on the likeness. The same characteristics we saw in Jesus, his love, his forgiveness, his mercy, we are to be made into this image. God has the authority to call for this because this is how the Lord wants our lives to be lived. This is what he "wrote the book" about.

Many of us have seen it happen and been in the line of fire when the matter of authority is misused or abused. From our human perspective, authority is something to be used, and even, inflicted on someone whom we want to follow our wishes to the t. Many times us human beings think we know everything about a subject. We think we know it all. We get too wrapped up in ourselves and what we want. We want people to listen to us, to follow us, to respect us, even fear us. But, if asked to write about the subject at hand, we might get out a few measly paragraphs. We don't know what we are talking about. We don't truly have a grip on the subject matter.We end up spouting off out of insecure prejudices and unfounded errors. Little do we realize we could use some time in the presence of an actual Authority. Someone who could lead us, guide us, instruct us. 

I've seen it happen in my field of work. Dude, I've even been the guy who needed a good smack upside the head. It was a couple years into my time with my last church that I realized, "It's not about me." It's not about the title in front of my time. It's not about the church following my every whim and command. I'm here to point the church towards God. I'm here to remind them of what God wants us to do. If I'm an authority on anything it's about who God is and what God wants for our lives. I've been in a steady stream of schooling since 1993. Do I have it all figured out? Good lord, no. Did I write the book on how to live the Christian life? Yikes. That's scary to even think about. The Apostle Paul made one plea to his Corinthians audience. "Follow me as I am following Christ." Paul sought to follow the Authority and encouraged those around him to follow as a way of keeping himself on track and accountable. 

When I first entered the ministry, when I approached my first church, I walked into Caledonia, OH into a small Nazarene church and proclaimed, "I'll be here 20 years."  Little did I know what would transpire in the years ahead. Even when I took that leap and made out of personal ad on the internet and met my future wife, I still had it in ind that she would move up my way and we would make a life for ourselves right there in Caledonia. That's not the way it went. When we hunker down and proclaim for ourselves how we want things to be, do we realize that we are making plans for ourselves as if we are the Authority who governs all and oversees all?

Jesus is the Authority. The Word. If there is a "know it all" it would be the One who made the world and caused it to be. The Word spoke causing us to have shape and being. God knows all about us. If anyone has the right to tell us anything then the authority belongs to someone greater than us. For some reason, though, we seem to have a problem with someone knowing more than we do. Was this the problem Jesus faced upon coming to earth? Jesus knows everything about everybody. Scriptures cites that he knew their hearts and minds as he spoke with people. The opening words in John's gospel say that "He came to that which was his own, yet his own did not receive him."  Why not? Was it an authority issue? If it was, then, the leaders in the day, if they were listen to Jesus, would have to admit that they themselves are not the authority. They did not know it all. The people, who had grown accustomed to allowing the religious lead the way, would have to buck the system and say that this man, Jesus, was the authority and not these scribes and Pharisees. Who is the authority within the realm of our lives?

You should recall as we began covering this subject of sanctification that this work of the Lord begins with us laying down the will of our lives. Merely saying that word, will, should bring to mind some idea of authorship. If you have not done so, writing out one's will is a very important step in our human lives. We want to state clearly where everything in our possession is to go should, if, and when we leave this this earth. It is as if we are the ones in control of all of this and we want to make sure everything goes to the proper people within the framework of our lives. Sanctification begins when we turn the will of our lives over to the Lord. We no longer are in control. We have knelt and given control of our lives over to the Lord. The Almighty is now the authority in our lives. One of the great lies that has been played out and is still perverted to this day is that man can be God. man thinks he/she can be the big dog in control of all that we see. Human kind was created to serve, not to rule. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., former associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a man in charge of great power and responsibility, also known to many as "The Great Dissenter". He wrote extensively and with great authority, sharing opinions that carried great weight in connection with cases being covered in the Great Court. One quote attributed to Holmes, however, say much with few words. "The great act of faith is when a man decides he is not God." 

Jesus has all power and authority. Jesus is God. God in the flesh. 
Yet, Paul states in his letter to the Philippians that...

Philippians 2:5-7

New International Version (NIV)
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
If you have the privilege of being someone with power and responsibility over others in this world, do not think that you are better or more important than others. Follow the example of Jesus Christ. We are to be a "living sacrifice" as Paul would state to the Romans in Chap 12. We give of ourselves. This is how we give. We turn the will of our lives over to the One who knows all and is The Authority over all. The One who knows more than we do. 

Would you have a problem with that? Turning your will over to someone else.
If I opened the altar this morning and invited you to come down and present your lives to God, allowing Jesus Christ to be the Authority over your life, could you do that? Would you do that? Would you follow the example that Jesus set for us, in being a servant, in giving all that you have, so that the world around us might know the love and forgiveness that God wants to extend?

Would you come, today, and approach this altar? Would you lay all you have at the feet of the Almighty? Would you write out the will and give it to God and say "It's all yours. Take it and do what you want to with it." ? This Christian life is not just about finding forgiveness. We need to be forgiven and make things right with God. We also needs to turn our lives over to the Almighty. God alone rules all and oversees all. The creation needs to turn itself back to the Creator. The One who authored and gave life to it. Can you do that today? Can you give you life to God?

God gave us everything. God asks for your life today. The will of all that you are and have belongs to one with all authority. Your decisions awaits.

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