One of my friends had a habit of almost reflexively asking a question whenever someone made a statement about some new policy we were expected to follow at work or an additional task we were required to do. He’d say, “Oh, yeah? Says who?” He wasn’t so concerned about who actually transmitted the information. He wanted to figure out what might happen if he didn’t do whatever he was being told to do. When rules and restrictions are applied, there’s always a battle to see which will yield, the authority or those toward whom they’re directed.
Not A Political Problem ~
The growing lack of respect for authority in our country didn’t originate in the realm of politics. The national thumbing of noses at authority isn’t an ideological phenomenon or the result of some dark conspiracy, at least not one concocted by human beings, and regardless of the obsessive insistence by some that every problem we have is the result of racism, our issues with authority aren’t racial. At its root, our struggle with authority and power is indicative of a spiritual problem. Restoring safety and social stability in our country will require a renewed recognition of the authority of God and a return to treating the Word of God as it is, indeed, the Word of God and not a collection of fables.
The question of who has the authority to tell us what to do and what the potential consequences might be are always the underlying questions when someone wants to control our behavior. Since no one ever challenged human behavioral norms like Jesus, it’s no surprise that authority was a prominent issue during His time on earth. The Pharisees loaded God’s people down with all kinds of oppressive burdens for violating their rules, but Jesus was fundamentally different. There was something about the authoritative way He spoke that left the crowd astonished:
And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:28–29 NKJV)
The Primary Issue ~
Later, as His mission on earth was approaching its culmination, the opposition had intensified and so had the fear of Him that fueled their rejection of the authority that He represented. On one occasion, He was accosted in the Temple and His detractors didn’t ask about the reality of the miraculous things He had done, nor did they challenge His exposition of the Scriptures or the principles He taught. Instead, they sought to discredit Him by attacking His authority. The exchange began like this:
Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23 NKJV)
Jesus not only issued authoritative commands regarding our personal behavior, He also included directives about the kinds of attitudes and motivations that tend to accompany those behaviors. He called on those who heard Him to surrender everything to Him, and some of the things He instructed His hearers to do not only conflicted with human nature, they sounded impossible to do. God’s behavioral bar is set beyond the reach of any of us. The sinners who listened to His words back then, like those who have listened to them for thousands of years since then, struggled with the battle between their hope of redemption and their fear of failure to measure up.
An Encouraging Incident ~
Authority hanging over our heads with the power to render judgment can feel frightening. When fallen humans have it, unjust things can happen, and the power to inflict torture and death can result. But the Judge of all the earth took His authority to the cross and relinquished the power of His life in order to transmit it to those who deserved the hell He suffered. The power that attends the authority of the One who died for us isn’t focused on “judgment”. Luke records an incident involving a demon-possessed man that can be very encouraging when we struggle with the challenge of surrendering everything to Jesus:
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, “What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” (Luke 4:35–36 NKJV)
Reading that, we might think, “Oh, it’s just another demon being cast out. What does that have to do with me?” Well, what if we put ourselves in the place of that poor, nameless man? He had been overtaken by a force he couldn’t control and couldn’t free himself from. His behavioral choices had been taken from him, and there was nothing he could do about it. The most powerful agencies around him offered no help. Priests had the power to relegate him to social isolation. The Pharisees had the power to condemn him for whatever sins they thought he might have committed in order for that curse to befall him. The Roman government had the power to lock him up if his behaviors got too intolerable. But no one had the authority to tell that denizen from hell to leave his body, to free his mind, and to give him his life back. But then Jesus showed up. And when He did, the authority above every authority took over.
Human Authority Fails ~
We’ve got some demons that have possessed far too much of this country. There are people who have lost control and on their own, they are powerless to stop doing the violent and hateful things they’re doing. There are thousands of religious authorities in every state in the union, and apparently, they have been powerless to help. There are thousands of government authorities that seem to have no answer other than to blame the color of someone’s skin or to print more money. There are psychological authorities that can attach a diagnosis but offer no cure. There are elite academic authorities who can publish impressive looking journals with multi-syllable words that offer no solution. We need the same authority that helpless man in Luke’s story needed. We need Jesus to show up. But that begins with us surrendering our authority to Him.
Surrendering to Jesus sounds radical, but I love the way the Hebrew language handled the word for authority. It evokes the picture of a person placed underneath, and thus protected by, a large, powerful arm or hand. I want the kind of authority over me that can banish whatever hell might send my way. I want to know that the One with authority over everything I am, and everything I own, loves me. I want to be surrendered to the One who once gave up everything He had in order to set me free from the things I couldn’t control.
Some people have given up and declare that we’re too far gone and there’s nothing that can be done. I’m going to borrow my friend’s words and ask, “Oh yeah? Says Who?” The answer to the prophets of doom and gloom is that there is One with the kind of authority that can restore peace and prosperity to this nation and it isn’t a political party or any iconic leader. Our personal trust in Jesus Christ and a renewed submission to His authority are where national transformation begins. Our individual response to Jesus’ call to follow Him can be a stepping stone to deliverance and freedom for all of us. May our expectations always be in harmony with His power and our hope in concert with His heart.
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- “Jesus called on those who heard Him to surrender everything to Him, and some of the things He instructed His hearers to do not only conflicted with human nature, they sounded impossible to do. God’s behavioral bar is set beyond the reach of any of us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When we struggle with the challenge of surrendering everything to Jesus, we need the same authority that the demon-possessed man in Luke’s story needed. We need Jesus to show up. But that begins with us surrendering our authority to Him.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The Hebrew language for the word for authority evokes the picture of a person placed underneath, and thus protected by, a large, powerful arm or hand. I want the kind of authority over me that can banish whatever hell might send my way.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “I want to know that the One with authority over everything I am, and everything I own, loves me. I want to be surrendered to the One who once gave up everything He had in order to set me free from the things I couldn’t control.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Our trust in Jesus’ authority can be a stepping stone to deliverance and freedom for all of us. May our expectations be in harmony with His power, and our hope in concert with His heart.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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