Sunday marked the penultimate lesson in our Vital Signs series. (Yes, I just used the word “penultimate” – it makes me feel smart.) Just as there are vital signs a doctor checks to measure physical health, there are vital signs God checks to see whether or not you’re spiritually healthy.
The Principle to remember is this: “Maximum freedom is found under God’s Authority.” Most people don’t associate freedom with submitting to authority. I don’t know a lot of people who like to be told what to do.
Authority is like an umbrella in the rain: You need to be under it to keep dry. If my umbrella’s in the closet, it’s not doing me any good. If I know what God wants me to do but don’t submit to him, my knowledge isn’t doing me any good either. Likewise, I shouldn’t be surprised to get arrested if I steal a computer from Best Buy even though I know stealing is against the law.
Romans 13:1-2 says,”Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” God has given us worldly authorities to serve as a mirror, as a reminder that ultimately we need to obey God’s authority. If we refuse to listen to human authorities, we’ll probably reject God’s authority too. But as we respect and listen to human authorities we’ll learn more about what it means to follow and honor Jesus Christ. Authorities aren’t simply here to “keep the peace” but to give freedom.
- Human Authority is given by God
- Life is a mirror: As you submit to authority you’ll learn more about submitting to God.
- Maximum freedom is found under God’s authority.
We all have people we need to listen to. Parents, Teachers, Principals, Coaches, Pastors, Bosses, Police Officers, Politicians and other Government Officials, and others. But what if an authority figure tells you to do something God wouldn’t want you to do?
When I was a senior in high school my football team got a new coach. Now I wasn’t a great football player, but I was good enough to be a starter on the defensive line. A few weeks into the season the coach instituted Sunday morning practices from 10-12… I had to choose whether or not I’d go to practice or church. I chose church. Shaking in my cleats, I approached the coach after practice and told him my decision, I clearly remember him saying, “You do what you have to do; I’ll do what I have to.” I never started another game in my senior year.
So here’s the principle for dealing with ungodly authority:
- Be open about your intentions to not obey… but present an alternative.
- Willingly accept the consequences
I wish I had presented an alternative. I could’ve gone to the first worship service at church so I only showed up 45 minutes late to practice and maybe the coach would’ve let me stay late to run extra laps or to lift weights after most people had left. I also wish I had talked to the Athletic Director (appealed to a higher authority) and told him what was going on.
As Andy Stanley write in The Seven Checkpoints: “You can’t be in rebellion against God-appointed authority and be in fellowship with God.”