Authority - Jon Fryer
Tonight we are going to be thinking about authority, but authority is a word that is thrown around a lot:
“On my authority…”
“You have no authority here…”
“I’ll report you to the authorities…”
“The authorities remain powerless to intervene…”
“The world’s leading authority on the subject says…”
So what is authority? The dictionary gives five definitions to the word authority:
1.) ‘The right to command, to enforce rules, or to give orders’. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
2.) ‘Someone with official power’. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
3.) ‘Power to act on behalf of someone else’. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
4.) ‘Official permission to act’. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
5.) ‘A reliable source’. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
The Bible teaches that all authority originally comes from God, and He gives it to who he chooses. Even the power of earthly government, whether that’s Tony Blair, George Bush, or the local policeman, comes only from God – in Romans 13 the Bible says:
Everyone must obey the police, for they have no authority except that which God has given them. The governments that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who breaks the law is rebelling against God, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. The police hold no terror for those who do right, but only for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the police? Then do what is right and they will commend you. For the police are God's servants to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for they do not have power for nothing. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to obey the government, not only because of possible punishment but also to please God. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if you owe respect, then give respect; if you owe obedience, then give obedience.
All authority belongs to God, and this means that authority can not be taken by force. You can not just steal authority. You can say that you are in charge, but unless the people obey you then it simply isn’t true! Authority has to be given, and it has to be given not only from above by God, but also from below by the people. I know of a church leader who doesn’t understand this and walked into his new church and thought that he could just command the people to do his will, and many years on he still has no real authority, because that is not how things work – authority has to be given, not taken. In contrast, Peter was ordained by the Bishop today to be a priest to you guys, but actually that only recognises what is already true – Pete is our leader, as recognised by all of the Legacy congregation.
Jesus said "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go...". All of you have been given authority. You have authority over the wind and the waves. You have authority over sickness and death. You have authority to forgive sins and to speak words of reconciliation and peace. You have authority over the powers of heaven and hell themselves. Jesus said “All authority on heaven and earth is given to me”, and you are his servants here on earth. When you speak for Jesus, under his authority and using his authority, you speak on behalf of the King. You are the mouthpiece of the King of All Things and reality itself has no choice except to bend to what you command. In Matthew 9 it says:
He called his disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. He sent them out with the following instructions: "Go to the lost. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has drawn near to you.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”
So that’s my first message to you tonight – Jesus gives you authority to do whatever it takes to build His Kingdom if only you remember it! When you ask for something in Jesus name, when you command something to happen in Jesus name, you can expect it to occur. Don’t forget that you are a son or daughter of the Most High. Don’t be deceived into forgetting the authority that is your birthright. No matter how bad things seem, you are not defeated and never will be, because you stand with the one to whom all victory and authority belongs, and His is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever. Amen.
Can’t remember which shop window this was in - possibly Ted Baker or somewhere (Picture by Jonny Baker). It’s a real problem for us that this is the attitude of many people – they will not lead, but they refuse to follow anyone. Or at least they say they do. Seriously, either lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way, but don’t sit there pretending that you are totally self contained and that no one else has any influence on your life. Anyone who says that they are completely free and do not follow anyone is kidding themselves. Anyone who thinks that they do not influence anyone in any way is also kidding themselves, because it is not the way the world works. Everyone follows someone. Even thousands of years ago this was the case. When Moses led tens of thousands of the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt, they all came to him with every single little problem, and Moses was dying with exhaustion. His father in law came to him and said “Moses, you’re being an idiot. You think you you’re the only leader here? You’re just the guy up front, but in this great horde there are thousands of little leaders, men and women whom the people look up to, each leading their five, or ten, or twenty, or hundred. So make it official. Give them the authority to deal with the small stuff, and get them to make the decisions and only bring the really important stuff to you. They’ll do what they already do anyway, and you’ll have time to do the stuff that God wants you to do that only you can do…”
It’s human nature to be influenced by others. Everyone follows someone. A couple of weeks ago someone came to me and said “My friend wants to know why I want to give up my free will to follow Jesus?”. The problem with that question is that it assumes that you have totally free will to start with – this friend, does she drink? Is that because she likes alcohol, or because her friends do? Does she smoke? Go to parties? Go shopping? Watch TV? Read books or magazines? All of these things are led by others – you can not escape following someone… so the question becomes not ‘Will I follow?’, but rather ‘Who will I follow?’. I believe that Jesus is the true authority on heaven and earth, and is therefore the most rational choice of someone to follow, but maybe that’s just me. Who will you follow?
Not only does everyone follow, but everyone leads. Everyone influences the behaviour and ideas of the people around them to some degree or another. Someone like Pete has lots of people follow him, because that is his gift from God, but every person in this room has people who listen to them, who look up to them, who look to them for an example to copy. Going back to the friends question, maybe she really wanted to know ‘Why is this Jesus guy worth following, ‘cos I can see you following, and I’m wondering if I should copy you?’.
If everyone leads, then with that authority comes responsibility. Jesus said: "You know that the leaders of the world lord it over the people, and the high officials exercise authority without pity. You are not to do it like that. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as I did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for you."
And if others are watching your example, how then should you behave? This is what St Paul said to the young guys in his church:
Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but instead set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Be careful in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and speech closely. Persevere in doing good, because if you do, you will save not only yourself but also those who copy your example.
Everyone leads. And everyone follows. And although it may not seem as glamorous as leading, we all follow someone sometimes. And we all follow Jesus, and his example was to serve. Jesus taught: Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
When we follow, we should be doing our best to make life as easy as possible for those who are doing their best to lead us, for this is pleasing to Jesus.
So that’s my second question to you: Who do you follow? Are they good for you? Do they lead you closer to Jesus? And who do you lead? Are you good for them? Do you lead them closer to Jesus?
My final point is that you give authority to what you believe. Let me explain. What you believe becomes real for you. The thoughts that you constantly put in your head, become the beliefs in your heart, whether you like it or not. The beliefs in your heart become your unconscious actions, whether you like it or not. As a man thinks, so a man is.
If you bombard your brain and your eyes constantly with images of porn (for example), then the attitude of your heart ultimately starts to say ‘girls are just objects for my selfish desire’, whether you know it consciously or not, and that will start to spill over into your words and actions whether you like it or not. If you constantly hold a grudge and think bitter thoughts about someone then your heart will start to harden whether you know it consciously or not, and that will start to spill over into your words and actions whether you like it or not. What you put in to your life is what comes out again. For this reason the Bible says: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
This leads us to two important points – who are the people you follow? What are they putting into your life? - what they put in is what will come out again. What you let them put into you is what you will become. As a man thinks, so a man is. As a woman believes, so she becomes. If the people you believe and follow and give authority to are not good for you, what kind of person will you become?
People believed Adolf Hitler when he lied to them because he made them feel good about themselves, even if deep down they knew what he was saying was slightly suspect. Who are you listening to? Who is lying to you? Who wants you to believe stuff that is actually bad for you? Here’s one – “drinking too much is fun”. That’s absurd. It’s a lie. You feel bad in the morning. It’s bad for your health. You’re a danger to yourself and others. You hurt people without meaning to. And you disgrace the name of Jesus. So who are you listening to?
And my final question: What Jesus are you believing in? It may sound a silly question, but remember, you give authority to what you believe.
When Jesus went to Nazareth, all they saw was the son of a carpenter and the Bible says in Mark 6 that Jesus ‘could do no miracles there, because there was little faith’. You get the Jesus you believe in. If you believe Jesus is boring, then your life rapidly becomes boring and your faith dies. If you believe Jesus is all about rules, then your life rapidly becomes stifled in rules, and your faith dies. But if you believe that Jesus is the Lord of Life; if you believe that Jesus is the Uncontainable, Uncontrollable, Unimaginable, Beautiful, Magnificent, Fantastic, Extravagant, Ridiculous, Miracle Making, Demon Quaking, Truth speaking, Lost-seeking King of Kings; if you believe in a Jesus where you’re not quite sure if he is safe, but you know beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is always, always good; if you believe in that Jesus, then that is the Jesus you give authority to, and that is the Jesus that you get, and that is when you see the world turned upside down and the Kingdom coming right here and right now in this room. So, which Jesus are you believing in? In which Christ do you believe? And are you willing to give Him the authority to move in power tonight and rock your world?
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