The Cost of Authority
"I know O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct His steps. Correct me, O Lord, but with justice; not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing." [Jeremiah 10:23, 24]
In previous writings we have touched upon this issue of authority and how it exercized among those calling themselves "Christians." On some occasions individuals will label themselves and others as "leaders" of the faith" (insinuating they have God's authority to lead others) and others times the rub is a little less obvious. Nonetheless, men and women are found in every city, within every nation and continent professing or living as if they themselves have a right to exercize God's authority. This so-called authority supposedly gives these individuals the right to do everything from making demands upon other Christians to establishing new doctrines of the faith. This can be easily seen in every single denomination as well as the majority of what people are calling or labeling "churches."
In some circles such as Catholicism, the authority over the "Church" (what official Catholic doctrine claims is the one true Church) is of course overseen by the Pope who claims to be a descendent of Peter the apostle. He has a literal throne in Rome and exercizes authority as the "head leader" or King of the Catholic Church. In a similar manner in which the original 12 apostles laid the doctrinal foundation for what is called today Christianity, the Pope also claims to have authority in doctrinal matters as well as authority over all of what is claimed to be Christian upon earth. This is no small claim for any man, let alone an individual who occupies the very position that past Popes used in slaughtering anyone and everyone who dared stand against her decrees and supposed authority. You do well to keep your eyes upon the continual stream of what is being claimed authorative through the Roman Catholic Church. For better or for worse, it will inevitably affect even you.
In the article To Whom am I Accountable, we discussed the differece between the authority of this world system and the authority that governs God's Ekklesia. We found these two types of authority necessary provided they remained within their particular spheres of God's design. We found that hierarchal authority was necessary in this world due to the sinfulness of men in places like the military or through business. We also discovered that due to the freedom from sin that all believers share through their union with Christ (whether they reckon that as true is another matter altogether), that a hierarchal authority is not necessary for Jesus' Ekklesia and in fact is condemned by Him. As already mentioned, it doesn't take much of a history lesson to discover what happens every time any man or men attempt to harness an authority among God's people. It has not ever, nor will that ever end well. Where men claim to possess or attempt to live with an authority that is over others, that authority costs the real people of God many things in which He has freely given to those that love and serve Him.
CONSIDER THE COST
In the last post, The Missing Ingredient, we discussed how important it is for people to count the cost of becoming one of Christ's disciples. Jesus Himself often emphasized this on many occasions despite His salvation being free. In this post I'd like you consider another cost- a cost that is being stripped from many if not most believer's worldwide. That cost is the freedom to exercise God's authority. When this authority is taken, demanded or transferred to others over us, it becomes ruthless and demanding, yet at other times subtle and secretive. Regardless of how this cost is made manifest, those who practice it have themselves become captives who in turn lead others astray. That cost of relinquishing one's own authority as a Christian to others becomes manmade authority which most often is exercized through self promotion, "Christian" educational institutions, non-profit organizations and churches.
For those that have read the recent aforementioned article, you might have surmised that I was adding something to God's grace in salvation. That was by no means the case. That said, Jesus often spoke the words "you cannot" for a specific reason- their are conditions that must be fulfilled in order for an individual to live their life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. For example Jesus said in Luke 14:26, 27;
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple"
These and other "you cannot" scripture verses affect our attitudes, affections and our actions. Note that above all Jesus Himself must become and remain the priority in our lives- even at the expense of any family member as the verse states above.
THE WRONG SACRIFICES
Without question Biblical Christianity commands all believers to make sacrifices for the sake of their fellow family members and even those outside of the faith. Quite a list of "one anothers" could be made from the Bible that ought to correspond to specific actions we live out one with another. At the same time God makes it plain that there are also certain attitudes, affections and actions that are not to be tolerated among those who claim to be among the family of God. For example, in Romans 14:13 we have this command in regard to personal convictions:
"So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way" (There is a Biblical mandate to accept other believers who may be weaker in the faith than we are but not judging their personal convictions)
"For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you" [1 Thessalonians 4:7, 8] (Impurity is not to be overlooked nor minimized among the saints but rather rebuked)
"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us" [2 Thessalonians 3:6-15] (The context here is an individual who appears to be a busybody but in actuality is being lazy and refusing to work)
In the above scenarios it is not merely wrong but sinful to judge other people's personal convictions that are not sin, overlook or fail to judge immoral behavior in a believer and accept or tolerate a lazy believer among the saints. There are many, many more scenarios that may seem trivial but to God are serious and must be addressed. No attitudes, affections or actions that are contrary to what God has set in motion can ever be accepted by Him.
THE AUTHORITY OF GOD (What He set in motion)
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" [Matthew 28:18]
"He is also head of the body, the ekklesia; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything." [Colossians 1:18]
FIRST PLACE IN EVERYTHING
Everything. This word alone should stop us dead in our tracks. Everything. Everything we bring to Him or before Him? Everything we create and ask Him to bless? Everything we deem to be appropriate ministry or culturally relevant? Everything men's imaginations can create and implement no matter how silly, worldly or irreverant? Yes, and no.
When Jesus is first, He decides what is and is not permissible. Just because some professing believer prays or decides to thank God for what they are doing for God doesn't make that course of ministry right, sound or within God's will. Jesus remains first- not in blessing or sanctioning what it is you so desire, but in deciding whether a particular course of action is acceptable to begin with.
God has never determined to allow me, you or anyone to decide how things are going to work, rather, He works all things according to the counsel of His own will. That will, although often resisted and even rebelled against cannot succeed. Men attempt to add Jesus as a Helper to all their own plans and designs all the while robbing Him of His own authority and preeminence. The results are the costs of men's authority.
The Cost of Intimacy
"But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us" [1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8] Here is an apt description of true love and compassion by Paul and his fellow workers. Not only, but the feeling appeared to be mutual:
"But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord" [1 Thessalonians 3:6-8] Notice was brought about their intimacy- the gospel, their sufferings and their determination to endure. It sure wasn't hobbies or the manner in which they had fun together. We're that shallow.
I recently asked a friend who meets with some local believers (30+ years together now) how well he knew each of them. He immediately answered hardly at all. That is proof positive of what happens when some religious authority teaches young men how to lead a church instead of living daily life among their local spiritual family. Tragic.
The Cost of Participation
"What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." [1 Corinthians 14:26] Despite what couldn't be more obvious in relation to how the local body of believers assembled, modern religious men use their "institutional authority" to alter what God's Word says in this verse. Any reasonable person (even a child) can distinguish who is really in charge in a church service. The so-called self appointed or school appointed authorative leader justifies usurping Jesus' authority as if Jesus were nonexistent and absent. Sorry Pastor, you may mean well, but that's neither proper nor edifying!
The Cost of being Blessed
"For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine." [Romans 1:11, 12] Mutual interaction equals mutual encouragement. The kid would have us listen to his vision from God and reject the simplicity of merely sharing our lives together daily. The leader may or may not be able or even see the necessity to minister to me. Given the chance though, not only am I given an opportunity to bless in service, but so are you. Stop preventing it!
The Cost of Responsibility
"As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" [1 Peter 4:10] What is it that hinders each individual believer from exercizing their gifts and talents one to another? Is it not the authoratative leader who somehow has convinced himself that silencing the lambs is actually beneficial. Beneficial to who, him? One responsibility of a leader is to aid others in recognizing and exercising their gifts from God. Sadly, that's been long forgotten, deemed unecessary or shifted into the classroom. None of the above are acceptable.
The Cost of Growth
"Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" [Acts 2:46, 47] The thought that Bible reading, prayer, fellowship and evangelism will establish the saints is a fallacy. Any unbeliever could do as much. True growth is based first upon Christ's accomplishments, our faith and trust in His abilities and a willingness to obey in the midst of daily interaction with other local believers. Show me where this verse is happening and I'll show you a fellowship where Christ is still preeminent.
The Cost of Freedom
"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" [Galatians 5:1] These converts in Galatia were tempted to retun back to that from which they had been freed- the law. In Christ, we also have been freed from the traditions of men, those things that keep us bound to the dictates of religious authorities and which also block God's intentions from being fulfilled in us. Every "cost" listed herein that you have or do surrender, you become a slave to its replacement. Jesus has said plainly; "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men….thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that" [Mark 7:8, 13] Many things…not just the six or seven I've listed here.
The Cost of Dependence
As sinful human beings, all we knew was how to be independent. We longed for those days where we could spread our wings, do as we pleased and pave our own destiny. As a believer, those days are over- that is if you believe what God has said about His children. If you don't, well, your either still separate from His grace or simply have never experienced the benefit of living true New Testament Christianity. Once you do, everything else will find it's place under the direct supervision and guidance of God Himself.
The greatest tragedy of course is that those who think God's authority can be earned will use that supposed authority to suppress God's actual authority that He exercizes through His children. Whether this act of usurping Christ's authority is intentional or not, it leads to an unhealthy dependence upon the authorative leader (my Pastor, Priest etc) as a replacement for depending upon Jesus Himself. Think not?
Jesus has many names that describe Him and His attributes. Although God forbids men to take spiritual titles unto themselves, they plainly disobey Him and do it anyway.
Jesus has a spiritual position at the right hand of God the Father which denotes His supreme authority. Although no man can earn God's authority, man still tries through schooling and ordination which rewards him or her with the promise of Pastor, Priest, Reverend etc.
Jesus is Head of His Ekklesia. Man hates God's terminology and quickly accepts what God never wrote nor intended through Church. Man calls himself an undershepherd all the while presiding over his or her "own" church or flock. What did God say about hypocrisy?
Jesus Christ as Head of His Ekklesia does not need any man or men attempting to build it for Him. We've seen, we've done far too much of that already.
There is an authority exercized among God's people which is granted in specific situations and related to an individual's spiritual gifts. This authority is not given to a man or men any more than righteousness is given outside of one's union with Christ. It is a spiritual blessing used in given situations as the Holy Spirit leads. It is not independent of Jesus, nor anything given once for all regardless of how an individual chooses to live.
There is a reason why the lowly Christian who refutes the local leaders vision, agenda or error get's run off the rails and branded as being divisive.
And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. Nonetheless, they still said to him, "Why have you treated us this way?" Jesus' response: "Did you not know?"
Is this not the Jesus Who lives in you?
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