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Who Is Your Authority?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5, 14 NIV).
There is a long history of division and unrest in the Church. Many of the Epistles of the Apostle Paul addressed division and sinful lifestyles. So, current division certainly falls into the category of there is nothing new under the sun.
The Church is the bride of Christ and at its best has the potential to do even greater things than Jesus did (John 14:12). The enemy knows of the power and potential of the Church and seeks to introduce issues into the Church to divide, deceive, and destroy. So, the Church at its worst will focus its efforts and resources inwardly on issues that will not bear good fruit nor facilitate evangelism and discipleship. The teaching of the Apostle Paul on this topic is still relevant today. “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23).
I understand the value of social issues and appreciate the fact we all have different opinions. Diversity of thought is healthy and necessary. I recently had a nice visit with a good friend regarding a contemporary social issue. He told me that he had a problem with me and my position. My response, was, “Brother, you and I don’t have any problems. However, it appears to me that your issue is with God because you don’t like parts of Scripture that are contrary to your personal beliefs.”
Different people can read the same Scripture and have different interpretations. I have read the same Scripture over the years and sometimes come away with a new revelation about God, myself, or others. These new revelations happen because “the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). As I gain new insight from Scripture, I realize that the Word has not changed, but by inviting the Holy Spirit to be present and teach me as I read, my understanding may change. 1 Peter 1:25 reads, “… but the Word of the Lord endures forever.”
I have talked to some people that have told me they understand what the Bible is teaching but based on their personal opinion they reject the Scripture. Sadly, they are our rejecting our Lord when they reject Scripture. Matthew 10:32-33 reads, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). The Apostle Paul also warns against the perils of denying Christ. “If we disown Him, He will also disown us” (2 Timothy 2:12).
When we reject God, we do so in favor of personal autonomy. Dennis F. Kinlaw was a Wesleyan-Holiness Old Testament Scholar and former President of Asbury College. He wrote, “Satan disguises submission to himself under the ruse of personal autonomy. He never asks us to become his servants. Never once did the serpent say to Eve, I want to be your master. The shift in commitment is never from Chris to evil; it is always from Christ to self. And instead of His will, self-interest now rules and what I want reigns. And that is the essence of sin.”
Our goal as Christians is not to try to attempt to convince others to reclassify what God has already classified as sinful behavior. Rather our goal is to embrace our inherent need for the Word as stated in 1 Peter 2:2. “Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation.” I struggle with my sins, but I think it is in my best interest to grow in my salvation to partner with the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ to repent and turn from my own wicked ways.
It is certainly possible to read the Bible and not get anything out of it. You need certain keys to unlock Scripture. One of those keys is accepting its authority and understanding its Author. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible says it’s God’s Word: “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). There is no need to challenge the Word because, “Every word of God is flawless (Proverbs 30:5).
One of the reasons why there is so much confusion in the world today is because people are listening to so many different authorities, and everybody’s asking, “Who’s right?”
Whether you realize it or not, you have an authority for your life. It’s what you use to make your choices. Your authority may be yourself, society, etc.
There are four unreliable sources of authority that people often use instead of Scripture.
- Culture (Experience). People who follow this authority source say, “But everybody’s doing it.” Yet Exodus 23:2 warns against it: “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.”
- These people say, “But we’ve always done it that way!” Jesus told some of the religious people of his day: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (Mark 7:8).
- This unreliable source says, “Well, it seems logical; it seems rational.” But Scripture warns against using our intellect as our authority source: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25).
- Personal feelings. Throughout the United States you’ll find people saying, “I believe it because I feel it.” But the Bible tells about a time when the world was in anarchy because of this attitude: “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
The four sources above are all inwardly focused and have some value. However, the caveat is that when any of those are in conflict with the Bible, they must be dismissed in favor of Scriptural authority. I encourage you accept the Bible as the final authority for every issue in your life. When you accept that authority, you’ll start to get more out of the Bible and be obedient to the first part of Proverbs 3:6 “in all your ways submit to Him. The benefit of submitting to God is contained in the second part of Proverbs 3:6, “and He will make your paths straight.”
Prayer: Dear God, Forgive us for the times that we reject your Word as the final authority in our lives. Help us to not only accept your Word but to spread the Good News contained in your Word to all that we meet. Amen.
Meet the Author
Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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