Sermons. Faith and Authority

Even when we become Christian, we do not forsake rebellion quickly. As long as the words of the Bible and of the pastor’s sermons do not touch us, we have a "nice" faith, but as soon as we learn something we do not like, our rebelliousness pops up.

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Pavel  Zhelnovakov

Dear Readers, I would like to suggest that together we think over an interesting subject, namely, Faith and Authority. We will talk about some mysterious connection between our idea of authority and our attitude to it on the one hand, and the strength of our faith, which brings tangible results into our life, on the other. As we talk about it, we will mention God’s authority, family authority and authority in family, Church authority and authority in church, as well as government authority and authority in the government. Today, we will talk about God’s authority in this world. Does He really have this supreme authority? Do we really recognize this authority? What is God’s authority in our lives? So, faith and authority.

Luke 7:2-10 And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, "He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5 for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue." 6 Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7 for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 "For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ’Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ’Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ’Do this!’ and he does it." 9 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith." 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

This short story shows us another facet of the mystery of faith. Ask any Christian, and they will tell you that faith is demonstrated in listening to the Lord’s words. But why is it that the faith of some people grow fast and the faith of others is slow to grow? And when it does grow, it grows sporadically and not evenly, and every once in a while these people lapse into drinking or immorality or drugs… But he is a believer! So, why the faith of some grow, although not always easily, but the faith of others may even degenerate? Luke 7:2-10 gives us the answer. It has to do with your attitude to authority. For some reason, the Lord Jesus was surprised at the words of the centurion, which were very simple, "You do not need to come to my house. Why? I am under my emperor’s authority, and my general’s authority, but even I have people under my authority. As I understand the principle of authority, I obey my leader, and my subordinates obey me. I am not trying to keep all the details under my own control but I say a word to them, and they do it."

Dear ones, he realized that Christ had the same principle: He was under His Father’s authority, but He has something in his hands and mouth, namely, His Word. The centurion says, "Say the Word, and it suffices." Did you notice how highly Jesus evaluated his faith? Even in Jerusalem He has not found such faith. But the centurion was not talking about faith! He was only talking about his attitude to authority, to the principle of authority, to the law of authority which is established by God in the whole Universe. Jesus said that the faith of the centurion was high. He compared it to Israel, blessed by Him, yet not exhibiting such faith. As we read the gospels, we can see the many miracles Jesus performed in Israel so we can see that they were not of little faith. The Israelites had much faith, but they were short of the heights of faith that the centurion had.

Dear ones, unfortunately, all of us are rebellious people. And the problem became even harder under communist regime when the notion of authority was perverted. The reason why it was perverted was that the Bolsheviks usurped authority through rebellion and revolution. Eventually, this discrediting of authority grew into resentment for authority which established its power through the fear of punishment. It is very tragic.

Even when we become Christian, we do not forsake rebellion quickly. As long as the words of the Bible and of the pastor’s sermons do not touch us, we have a "nice" faith, but as soon as we learn something we do not like, our rebelliousness pops up. And we think it’s the pastor’s fault, and we blame him. Why is that? It’s because when we don’t like something, our flesh, our old man becomes grumpy. That is the way flesh is. That is why many Christians do not grow in faith. They go to church, they kind of believe, and they even try to have a ministry, but their faith, unfortunately, is pitiful.

Let us consider together God’s authority in our lives because this is mysteriously connected with our faith.

OUR RECOGNITION OF GOD’S AUTHORITY IN OUR LIVES, HIS UTHORITY IN THE CREATION, IN CHURCH, IN FAMILY, IN STATE, MYSTERIOUSLY LEADS US TO MATURITY IN FAITH. This is very important.

Most of us recognize God’s ultimate authority as a doctrine. Our minds are aware of this doctrine. But I am not sure that most Christians take heed of that.

We are not likely to find a Christian who would dare say that God is not omnipotent or who would want to challenge God’s might. Of course, people are stupid, but not that stupid! We cannot find a Christian who would seriously consider challenging God to a fight. In theory, people recognize God’s authority, but how is it in practice?

Authority always requires something of us. To be sure, it gives us something back, too: it protects us, cares for us, and feeds us. But it will always require something of us. This is the nature of authority. Parents have authority. The government has authority. Doubtlessly, God has the greatest authority.

Let us think of the prophet Jonah who went against God’s will. As a result of that he became dangerous for others! God, for our sake, because of disobedience, can make a storm, and people might suffer as a result. Those of you who are trying to run away from God, remember that you become dangerous for others!

All Christians have heard about Job’s sufferings. He was a good godly man, of whom God was proud. But once God taught him an important lesson which had to do with suffering. Job, of course, did not know that God was behind the scenes. You might remember that Job tried to argue with God, and even challenge Him for a lawsuit. He kind of "sued" God! "If only I could get to You, I would tell you everything!" cried Job. And he thought, if God had found out what was going on, He would have brought Job His apologies for not taking a good care of him. But God taught him a very important lesson.

Job 42:1-6 Then Job answered the LORD and said, 2 "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 3 ’Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." 4 ’Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ 5 "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; 6 Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes."

We cannot think that Job had a sinful life. God Himself noticed that it was a life of light. Job’s problem was that He did not fully understand what authority was. When God saw that, He taught Job a good lesson. And when the lesson was over, Job admitted, "Lord, I had understood nothing". Listen to what Job says about himself. He claims to have talked about "Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know". This kept on going until he learned the important law, on which the Universe is based: GOD HAS ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. His intentions cannot be thwarted.

Dear ones, God has ultimate authority. He had this authority when He created the world. He has the ultimate authority over Israel’s destiny. He has had this authority over all human history. And He has not changed. He does have ultimate authority. Any other authority which tries to go against Him, cannot be called authority. There is just one authority. Everything else which goes against it, whatever the world calls it, is truly called "rebellion against God’s authority." The more rebellious a person is the harder it is for him to come to God.

You remember that the merciful and peacemakers are blessed. A peacemaker cannot be rebellious or he would not make peace. He is blessed for making peace. He is blessed, that is, he has God’s good. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." A peacemaker will be called son of God and he will obtain mercy soon, because he does not need to take the road of dealing with his rebellion. Think about that, Friends, for we all want God’s good for ourselves, and wellbeing, too.

Let us now consider the generation of the sixties, especially, in America. The generation of the hippies was a generation of rebels. And we have to mention the unfulfilled responsibility of the church which did not bring peace and contentment to people.

The whole earth was in an uproar in the sixties. Take Africa! The sixties were called the years of Africa. Almost 40 wars took place in these years as well as coups and rebellions. The generation of the sixties is the generation of rebels. When the hippies grew up and took high seats in the government, the world began to boil with rebellion. We are talking about different forms of rebellion: political, economic, and financial. It was simple: the generation of rebels came to power.

What do we see now? Care for people? That is a joke! We see almost demonic homicide demonstrated by different forms of abolition of man. Why is it so? Because rebels have come to power.

So, God has ultimate authority. And we have to pay very close attention to it. We might say, "It is so, indeed. But He is God, and who can say anything to Him?" in that case, let us look at Jesus who came to earth not as God only but also as the Son of Man. He lived His life as both God and man. It is amazing that the two natures came together in Him. As He was nearing the end of His time on earth, He said, "All authority on Heaven and on Earth has been given to Me." what does that mean? "Go therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep what I commanded you… Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe, will be condemned."

But why did He talk about His power in Heaven and on Earth before talking about the triumph of faith or the damnation of those who refuse to believe? Could He not have sent His disciples into the world without making that statement? Would His sending be less powerful without it? Of course, not. But He made this statement, "All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Me, that is why go and preach the gospel to all people."

Dear hearers of the gospel of Christ, we have God who has real, substantial authority. And if now He is not acting as we would like Him to, He has a reason for it. and here is the reason: He is patient with us, not wishing for anyone to perish but for everyone to come to repentance and knowledge of the truth. He loves people so He is patient with them.

We all have an amazing opportunity in our life: to recognize God’s authority in our lives or to reject it. How can we do that? Both Old and New Testament have very memorable stories which illustrate the triumph of God’s authority. For some reason, people tend to forget it.

The Old Testament has the strongest demonstration which was revealed in the 10 commandments (Exodus 20). Do you remember the beginning of God’s words to mankind? What was the first commandment? "I am the Lord." Oh, if only we could hear it as the Israelites did! There is no alternative! It’s a strong statement about God’s authority. I am the Lord! That’s it. It could be the end of it. I think it was for human weakness’ sake that God kept on talking. "You shall have no gods beside Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol. You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain." If we look at these four commandments we can see that the common theme for them is the recognition of God’s authority.

Why do people have problems? Because they do not recognize His authority. They edit His commandments. It is an awful thing to do. They pretend that God does not know. And they have a silly mental fight, "It is written in the Bible – so what? It was long ago, and times have changed, and my circumstances are special…"

Dear ones, God is serious! Remember when the Israelites witnessed God’s judgment over two sons of Aaron: Nadab and Abihud. They were priests. They knew about God’s clear commandment not to bring strange fire into the Holy place. God Himself gave through Moses clear directions on the order of worship. But something went wrong in the minds of these young men. May be they were intoxicated. So they decided to visit God in an inappropriate time. And they poured something different into their incense bowls. And they went "to see" God… The fire of heaven fell down and burned them both! But they had been consecrated to be priests! Correct. Even then, they were under God’s judgment for not obeying God’s clear commandment.

God told Moses that He would be holied in those who come to Him and He would be glorified in everybody. Holiness is fire, in which all that is unclean perish.

Can we really hope that the mayor of town will receive us if we act rudely in his office? Of course, not. Things are even sterner with God. He is the ultimate authority. The Ten commandments begin with a statement of God’s authority. Oftentimes when we hear "authority" (I mean human authority now), our minds come up with silly images which have been engraved in them over the years: bitter jokes about authorities, derogatory expressions, like "cop" etc.

Many offensive terms have corrupted people’s minds in their understanding of the principle of law of authority, stated by God for the whole mankind. So, when we say "authority" we think of a fat slave owner and a poor slave who has nothing of his own. What can we do with this image that we were brainwashed with? What can we do if our country’s history we were taught was not the real thing? For 70 years, our country was reaping the consequences of the denial of God’s principle of authority.

When we talk about God’s authority and about authority in general, the word authority" itself has a positive meaning. It is a declaration of God’s order for the whole world. In this order, we receive protection, security, provision, and all that we need for life and godliness, as the Bible says.

WHEN THE MECHANISM OF AUTHORITY IS BROKEN, PEOPLE LOSE FAITH.

Even in Israel I have not found such faith, said Jesus when He saw the centurion’s good attitude to the mechanism and law of authority.

Let us look at the New Testament now. It is a prayer known to us all, the Lord’s prayer. If we were Israelites, we would understand their awe as they heard "who art". This means, everlasting. I AM, or Jehovah (YHWH) – it’s a statement that comes from eternity. It is a statement of uniqueness and self-sufficiency. Please, do not confuse it with the false doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses which have nothing in common with Christianity. They do read the Bible but they interpret it not by biblical principles.

Our Father who are… The hearts of the Israelites must have been filled with sacred awe when they heard "I am who I am". The Israelites were afraid to even pronounce this Name. It was holy awe.

What do we see today in terms of using the Lord’s name? People use it in vain, and even make bad jokes about it.

’Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be YOUR name. 10 ’YOUR kingdom come. YOUR will be done," And His kingdom and His will should be established not only somewhere in heaven, but also in us. His will should be acceptable to us who live on earth.

And then, our interests follow. This is how Moses’ stone tablets were also organized: one of them had the commandments that regulate our relationship with God, the other had the commandments that regulate our relationship with others. Recognizing God’s authority and the triumph of this authority in us gives us security and protection. I remember serving in the army, before I became a Christian. While in the army, I came to realize that authority is a good thing. How is it good? Well, you don’t need to think. You are provided for and your officers will take care of you. In the morning, an officer would run in instead of a good old alarm clock and make you get up. Three times a day, you will be fed, and you do not need to cook. Twice a year you get new clothes and boots. They will tell me when to go to bed and when to get up, when to eat and such. The authorities will take care of you. It is good to be taken care of.

When I accepted God’s authority, I said, "Lord, it’s good to be Your servant. You are responsible for me, and you take care of my food, my clothing, and my whole life. I have a Master! A servant is not responsible for himself." It is important for us, as we reflect on God’s authority to understand what the Greeks meant by the word for "Lord" – someone who has full and unquestionable right to own a person or thing. It seems that many people who say this word in their prayers or songs, do not realize how significant it is.

Some people think that it’s bad to be a servant. This word has two meanings. A servant of Jesus is not the same as black slaves on plantations. The Russian language has one word "servant", and Greek, the language of the New Testament, has two different words with different meanings. DOULOS is a servant of Jesus. It has a positive meaning. Not all people were called that word. You needed to deserve to be called it. And people wanted to be accepted as DOULOS to be provided for. They had a sign that made them different from other slaves. They had a pierced ear. DOULOS became family to his owners and he inherited the property if his owners had no children. Greek was a common language of that time, as English is now, so no one was afraid of the word DOULOS.

Let us come back to the Lord’s Prayer. It begins with a statement of God’s authority, a statement of respect to God. He is the Master, and those who willingly serve Him (hopefully, it’s you and me), are DOULOS. Why do we have arguments and fights? Is it because we respect each other? On the contrary, it’s because people lost respect for each other. That is why they dare say offensive words or act rudely to others.

As one pastor was marrying two people, he said, "When love is over, law takes over." What did he mean? As I thought about this statement, I realized how wise it was. When love is over, then the law takes over. It’s a law which punishes any wrong behavior or bad treatment of your spouse. It is just a matter of time, when the punishment will be officiated.

So, there is a mysterious connection between your recognition of the law and the mechanism of authority, given by God, and our faith’s growth. A person who does not recognize authority cannot grow in faith. As a believer, he will be saved from hell. Or we want him to be saved from it. But most likely, he will be saved as out of fire, that is by God’s judgments. But he will not be able to grow and succeed in faith.

Dear ones, let us pray that we would learn fully this lesson on God’s authority. If everyone understands it, many things will change in our society. Many leaders will stop sighing, and many subordinates will see something good in their bosses. Serious changes will take place in families. Many things will change in church, and of course, in our relationship with God.