Monthly Archives: September 2013

JESUS’ AUTHORITY AND US

The Word of God has authority, it is not mere truth. Jesus’ words had authority for his listeners. He speaks truth with authority to us today just as he spoke then. Because he speaks with the authority of his Father, the Living God, we must take his words seriously. If we do not heed them there are consequences.

Truth goes nowhere if not acted upon, if not followed through. Truth is given freely to Jesus’ disciples for a reason, to produce obedience of faith, turning, action. Truth demands a response from us. God always initiates truth –  it is not from man. And we must respond. Jesus actually lived this out and taught his followers to do the same. If he acted in this way, must not we do the same?

Jesus’ first disciples were taught truth from the one who IS truth in human form, the one who is the word of God in human dress. They were able to grasp only so much of this truth as they followed him all around Galilee and Judah, Israel. But it was after the events of the resurrection of Jesus from death and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that they began to appreciate more fully the profound implications of his truth and we have the historical book we call The Acts of the Apostles which records how they actually put it into practice. They obeyed because Jesus’ words continued to have authority.

If we keep on seeking truth, soaking it up, even digesting it, storing it away in our hard disc, keeping it filed and catalogued –how can that be good? Our minds can be full, stimulated even, but our hearts remain cold. Truth can be shelved, put where is does not challenge us, so we live in denial. Cognitive dissonance.

He said to his disciples, freely you have received— freely give. We cannot keep his truth to ourselves. We must share, give, tell. Shout.

The word of God is living, active, extremely sharp, having great power in its effects. God never wants his word to return to him empty. It has a purpose, a telos. It has authority. It must not be hidden away. The world desperately needs to hear.

The Pharisees had much truth to proclaim God’s truth to people in Jesus’ day but Jesus had authority in his “truly, truly” words, his teaching. He spoke not just for people to hear and applaud but for people to obey.

Beloved, we must beware of just storing up God’s wrath for ourselves in grabbing truth, becoming an expert, showing off our knowledge, but not acting on it. Some teachers of truth teach but do not expect hearers to act on it either.

Jesus sternly warned his hearers in the parable of the two house builders and the two different foundations, sand or rock (Mat 7:24-27). Both hear exactly the same words of Jesus but the builders on rock are those who obey Jesus’ words. The builders on sand are those who hear but do not obey Jesus’ words.

Again, in the sheep and goats parable (Mat 25:31-46), the only difference between them was what they did and didn’t do about Jesus’ commands to care for even the least of his humble brothers and sisters, his disciples (see Mat 10:42 and the whole passage).

Jesus even offended his mother and brothers once by declaring that “my true family members are the ones who do my Father’s will.” (Mat 12:46-50)

If we do not act on his words, are we not despising his words?

Worship of the Father must be worship in spirit and truth (John 4:12). He did not say true worship is worship of truth. Truth is a gift from the Giver and we must love the Giver not the gift.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life—he is very truth personified in human form, pictured in the Gospels as truth totally mobile, walking around among men full of grace and truth … For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14-17)

There’s the difference! Knowledge of the law failed to produce righteousness. But Jesus not only lived the truth, he is the truth. He speaks with authority and people are transformed when they choose him.

We must not stockpile truth like money in a bank. The manna God sent daily, and not eaten on that day, went rotten for the Israelites in the desert wanderings. It was not allowed to be kept and worshipped. Truth is to be shared.

Surely the real issue is to live by every authoritative, dynamic word that proceeds straight from the mouth of God, not out of some memory bank? His mercies are new every day.

Freely you have received, freely give!

IDIOTIC ELECTION

Article in the Guardian by Alex White, 18 Sept 2013.
Major donors to the Liberal Party prior to the 2013 election, according to the Australian Electoral Commission include mining company Santos ($227,880), Clive Palmer’s Minerology ($459,900), nickel miners Minara Resources ($358,000) and Mincor Resources ($120,000), Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group ($50,000), and oil giant Chevron ($28,500).

Read the whole compelling article ..   http://www.theguardian.com/environment/southern-crossroads/2013/sep/18/tony-abbott-abolish-carbon-price

Oh Australian voters! You have just made the same mistake as the policies of the two major political parties : short-term thinking; never mind the world being made unfit for the little ones growing up and destined to be burdened to fix the unthinkable mess; just think of the next year or two; just have lots of comfortable fun, material security, empty prosperity from filthy, polluting, 19th Century technology for tomorrow?

Well, tomorrow we die, don’t we? Someone else can fix it all. And yair, let’s not think of what we will say to the Judge of all, how we will justify ourselves for our gross selfishness, our greed, our love of me, me wife, me home, me car, us four, no more. Let’s just go on living in Fantasy Land.

How shall we escape the hell we are creating for ourselves, the wrath we are storing up against us? There is more than just one inconvenient truth. There is a much more critical inconvenient reality.  And it is roaring towards us fast, unstoppable.

There is only one Teacher, one Guide, one Saviour, one Father, one Name to call upon, one Way out, one righteous Governor.

And that is the good news.

THE POWER OF AUTHORITY

As we said, law-enforcers have authority because that has been given them by a higher power – the elected government. Their words carry the weight of the law because, it is not their words which they speak but the words of the law of the land to which they also are subject. This gives them authority. To step out away from being under that authority, would mean dismissal or legal action or even worse.

This kind of authority was what the many crowds throughout all Israel recognised in Jesus’ teaching. This man was different to all who had come before. Matthew’s text tells us that the crowds were amazed – the original word has the sense of being taken out of themselves, giving us our word ecstatic.

Now, there was this Roman soldier, who saw Jesus’ authority, recognising it because of his own position. As a Roman centurion he was in command of about 100 men who were expected to obey his word without question in a chain of command from foot soldier right up to the highest general and to Caesar. See what Matthew says about this when Jesus offered to come and heal his dangerously ill servant:

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. ….. Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Mat 8:5-13

The Centurion understood authority. He knew Jesus’ word would be all that would be required. Just a word! Unseen. Remote. The soldier shifts his obedience from Caesar to Jesus. Extraordinary for a Roman! He did so because Jesus himself was seen to be under authority – under the authority of his unseen Father.

The various denomination heads were flabbergasted by Jesus’ authority. They kept demanding of him by what authority he taught and acted. This happened when he upset the commercial activities in the temple complex and in many other scenarios. They were provoked by Jesus’ authority. And Pilate, trying to cross examine Jesus at his mock trial must have been shocked to hear this bound, vulnerable prisoner say to him “you have no authority over me unless it is given you by my Father!”

We can do nothing in the Kingdom of God unless we too come under authority – the authority of Jesus. Under his authority we can proclaim the gospel and heal the sick and even raise the dead. Disciples are coming under this authority today all over the world. Amazing things are taking place through Jesus’ followers, following their obedience to his commands. They are experiencing his authority, daily.

This is what it means to be a disciple, to be under that authority.

TRUTH AND AUTHORITY

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Mat 7:28-29)

Matthew ends Jesus’ great discourse out on the hillside with these words which immediately follow Jesus’ parable of the two house builders and their building foundation — see my last posting. Hearers were amazed at his authority.

We have often seen these words: GREAT IS TRUTH AND MIGHTY ABOVE ALL THINGS.

Yet, maybe there is indeed something greater than truth, beyond truth even. I speak of authority. We know that law-enforcers must have more than the truth of the law to command our submission. They must have authority. The airport worker with the ping-pong bats in his hands has authority over the aircraft captain in berthing the plane in the terminal.

What unexpected, out-of-this-world claims this man, Jesus, makes upon his hearers! How they must have struggled with his words. Yet they could not deny the authority of the words he spoke. His words were deadly serious and reached right down into the deepest recesses of their lives. They were utterly compelling, relevant, so different from the meticulous rules and regulations of religious heavies. And they were accompanied by his gracious acts of deliverance from unseen, enslaving powers by hundreds, possibly thousands of works of healing, even raising people from death.

And then the ultimate: though certainly dead, murdered by his religious enemies, and buried with such tight Roman security measures, Jesus came roaring back to glorious life, God confirming his authority.

Even the opposing rulers and leaders had to admit “No man ever spoke like this man!”

Come now, what measly excuses do you come up with to ignore the stupendous demands he makes upon the very core of your existence? Or how do you rationalise away the pointy ends of his shocking words?

And what reason are you going to give your Judge in the End why you have ignored these words as they come down to us in century 21 with undiminished force, though two millennia have come and gone? Time in this respect has stood still. He has not changed and his words have not changed. Neither has out humanness changed, our failure to find peace on earth, to master our own human natures, to do good the way we should, to honour our Maker.

He meant what he said and he said what he meant. God has not spoken since with such conviction, as he did in his only-son. Those of us who love history can easily demonstrate the unbroken links back to the time and place of these spoken and lived-out words. That’s history.

Are you like the religious leaders who condemned the best man who ever lived? Some said he was mad, or possessed by demonic forces. Do you honestly believe such a judgment can fit this unique life lived out before thousands of people? Neither can the conclusion others came to that he was a deceiver continually and deliberately misleading his hearers to join his pathway of error into virtual suicide, throwing away their lives for a lie.

Jesus calls on his hearers—and that includes you, dear reader—to not only hear his words but to obey them. In fact, to merely hear his words and not obey them is to invite disaster in your life. It is not enough to acknowledge the truth of these words or to applaud them as great teaching, amazing wisdom, admiring him patronisingly as some great teacher.

Do you call yourself a Christian? A believer? A follower? You will be destroyed if you merely accept his truth but not his authority to govern you. Sitting on some virtual fence won’t do – there is simply none to sit on. To not turn is to remain unturned.

His truth is one thing. His authority to command our attention and our obedience is quite another.

ARE YOU WISE OR FOOLISH?

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it“. Matthew 7:24-27

This teaching of Jesus to his 12 disciples, with a much larger crowd listening, immediately follows his recorded words that we looked at a few days ago. This continues the serious theme of doing what the Father wants. We noted then there will be shocked and aghast people at the End, at the judgment. Will you be one?

In this simple parable Jesus shocks us now with the stark truth: it is not how much we know or remember of his teaching, but whether we put his teaching into practice. That is the difference represented by these two different foundations.

As one who has designed many houses, I can say with the greatest conviction that the foundation on which we build a house is of first importance. It will mean the difference between security and habitability against total failure leading to complete demolition of the structure.

Let’s do a bit of foundational risk assessment.

What risks are you taking by continuing to build your life on an inadequate foundation? What is your foundation? Is it how much you understand, how great is your Bible knowledge, how much doctrine you have learned? your correct world view? loyalty to a system of doctrines or your aligned party?

If so, your foundation is critically faulty. If so, our Lord calls you foolish. You are fooling around with religion, with ideas. You faith is a waste of time. Living a lie, a fantasy. It will not be sustainable when difficulties arise, when the End comes.

A foundation for a house can appear to be sound but if the kind of ground for building is not assessed and taken into account in foundation design, disaster is ahead. Your “Christian life” may look nice to those around you, even admired and copied. But is it founded on the solid rock of not only knowing, but loving and keeping Jesus’ words? Thank, God he shows us what he wants—his perfect design.

Better surely to have a little understanding of Jesus commands and actually be keeping them than to have floor to ceiling libraries of well read volumes and knowledge but then continue to be unmoved to obey. Foolishness.

Maybe you are trusting in a doctrine, say, once saved, always saved. But there is absolutely no doctrine that can save you. Only to follow Jesus as his loving disciple will save you. This is the clear message of Jesus to would-be followers.

We will not be saved by our works, but neither will we be saved without them.

There are two critical issues here. First, we must be aware of Jesus’ commands, his words, not our assumptions of what he meant, or words of another, of others, of dogmatic decrees by minders, and these occupying our attention and energy? Doing stuff that does not conform to his plans and specifications?

Here’s a good question: Just what are the commands of Jesus? Just what does he demand of his followers?

Second issue. Are we lovers of him and his words so that we actually do them?

So we better examine ourselves, to see whether we are in the faith. 2 Cor 13:5