“All authority comes from God so the one who resists authority is resisting God.” Romans 13:1
“We have been seated with Christ in heavenly places.” Ephesians 2:6
I fear that most American Christians don’t understand how God feels about positional authority. We tend to honor those who we feel are honorable while withholding honor from those we don’t think deserve it.
All authority has been instituted by God and therefore should be unconditionally honored. It doesn’t matter whether your dad is an alcoholic; if you learn to honor his position, God’s blessing for those who honor their parents will rest on you. David, the man after God’s own heart, refused to raise his hand “against the Lord’s anointed.” (1Samuel 24:6) Saul was demon oppressed at the time, so the anointing was not on the man, but on the position he held. (Notice, honoring authority does not mean remaining in a place of abuse as David fled when Saul started throwing spears at him.)
If we only honor authority that we feel is worthy, we will never take the place God has given us unless we feel worthy to take it. How often does that happen? The gospel isn’t about us being good enough, it’s about God’s grace and about a position He wants us to take in Christ. You have been made a child of God (Galatians 4:6), a priest of God (Revelation 1:6), and have been given the “the gift of righteousness,” so that you can “reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)
We need to understand and honor positional authority, so we can honor the position God has given us in Christ. The late Reinhart Bonkhe didn’t begin to walk in the miraculous power of God until one day when God said, “My word in your mouth is just as powerful as My word in My mouth.” Africa was never the same as unprecedented miracles led to millions of recorded salvations.
I believe God and the world are waiting for each of us to take our position in Christ!
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20
William Temple (1881-1944) was a philosopher, professor at Oxford, and ultimately the archbishop of Canterbury. His great concern was that Christians would embrace a world view that puts man in the center instead of God. Here is an excerpt from his writings:
“The least popular part of traditional Christianity is Original Sin. I was doing it before I could speak, as has everyone else. I am not ‘guilty’ on this account because I could not help it. But I am in a state, from birth, in which I shall bring disaster on myself and everyone else unless I escape it. Education may make my self-centeredness less disastrous by widening my horizons. But this is like climbing a tower which widens the horizons of my vision while leaving me still the center of reference. The only way to deliver me from my self-centeredness is by winning my entire heart’s devotion, the total allegiance of my will to God, and this can only be done by the Divine love of God disclosed by Christ in His life and death.
In making the world, God brought into existence vast numbers of things, like electrons which always have to obey His law for them and do so. But He made creatures – men and women – who could disobey His law for them and often do so. He did this in order that among His creatures there might be some who answer His love with theirs by offering to Him a free obedience.
This involved a risk in that they would naturally take the self-centered outlook on life, and then, increasingly become hardened in that selfishness. This is what has happened. To win them out of this, He came on earth and lived out the Divine love in human life and death. He is increasingly drawing us to Himself by the love thus shown, but this task of drawing all people to Himself will not be complete until the end of history.” (Devotional Classics; page 224-226)
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16-17
The last time I was in Honduras we worked with a family who was temporarily taking care of a two year old named Angel. Angel couldn’t talk yet, but he had no trouble communicating what he wanted to the three older girls in this family who watched over him. There was rarely a big scene over Angel because all he had to do was threaten displeasure and his desires would be instantly met. He ate what he wanted when he wanted it, and slept only when he was in the mood.
I started calling him, “Little Napoleon”, because he was a tyrant over these three girls. One image I clearly remember was Angel listening to music with an ear piece while walking around in circles (nothing on but his diaper) while one of the girls held the CD player and frantically tried to stay up with him so the ear piece wouldn’t come out.
There’s a “little Napoleon” that lives in you and me called the sin nature. It has endless desires and wants to be catered to constantly. It wants to be immediately gratified and complains if there is ever a delay in meeting its needs. The sin nature finds reading the bible, praying, fasting, or going to church boring, and much prefers the instant thrill of the media industry. It doesn’t forgive, but rather uses anger and pouting to get its own way. If the sin nature is denied its way in one thing, it immediately seeks to find comfort in any number of other ways without thought of what’s right and wrong, or of how it might affect those around. It doesn’t like to serve, but lives to be served.
Parents need to decide early that they are in charge, and not their two year old. Have you given notice to your sin nature that it will not run your life? It will submit if you count yourself dead to its power through your identification with Christ’s death and then live by the Spirit through identifying with Christ’s resurrection. (Romans 6:1-14)
“I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galatians 2:20-3:3
The story is told of the man who first heard about the Model T and decided to have a look. He was impressed with the shiny chrome and the leather seats so he paid the asking price, hooked it up to his horse, and started pulling it home. What the man didn’t realize was that the Model T came with its own engine.
The Christian life is not difficult; it’s impossible. Oh, you may be able to polish up the outside a little through mere will power and even impress people, but genuine from the heart Christianity is impossible with man. When Peter asked Jesus who could be saved, he answered frankly: “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)
Thankfully God designed the Christian life to come with its own engine; His powerful grace. The Galatian Christians knew that they were saved by grace through faith, but then they started living as though it was by works. They were in danger of nullifying the engine of God’s grace by hooking all the demands of Christianity up to their own ability to keep the law. The joy and peace that comes when we share Christ’s light burden and easy yoke (because He does most of the pulling) were quickly disappearing, and their religion was becoming hard, dull, and void of the miraculous power of God.
Paul questions them in verse five, “Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” Whenever our Christianity becomes man centered we are left with what man is able to do, and that’s not much.
Whenever I fall into the trap the Galatians were falling into I remember the man with the Model T. It sure is easier to sit down and let the engine do the work!
“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’” Genesis 21:6-7
The joy Sarah experienced when she had Isaac (Isaac means “laughter”) would be shared by others when she told them the story. She was barren, Abraham was too old, and she had given up on having children long ago. People would laugh for joy because this child was tangible evidence of three things:
- God is alive. Because of the circumstances, this was clearly a miracle that only a living God could do.
- God is good. Life can be harsh and frustrating, but this child was a desire fulfilled that gave Sarah, and anyone who would hear about it, a taste of how good God is.
- God is gracious. Sarah had tried to have a child her own way through Hagar, and then laughed cynically when she heard God’s promise of her having a child. (Genesis 18:12) When she was asked why she had laughed, she lied because she was afraid. Yet God did the miracle anyway! God does wonderful things, not because of our great faith, but in spite of our imperfect faith.
What does this have to do with us? Everything. “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Galatians 4:28) The God who owed us nothing but death, gave us eternal life. The one who was heading to hell is now on the path to heaven. The life that was degenerating in isolation is now regenerating through adoption into God’s own family, by the Spirit of life.
We are the miracles that should bring heaven’s laugh into this dark, cynical world. God loves us and Jesus died for us! Don’t forget to laugh today at how wonderful these simple truths are.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time, casting all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1Peter 5:6-10
The language of the New Testament has two different words for time. One of them, “chronos,” corresponds to our word for time in definition, but the second, “kairos,” has no one English word to define it. “Kairos” is translated in a number of ways: “the right time;” “the proper time;” “an opportune time;” or as it is in the text above, “in due time.” All of these have the same basic meaning: “in God’s time.”
God has His own time for things. He does plan to lift us up, answer us, promote us, provide for us, and heal us in His time, but there is a time of testing that often comes before which requires us to wait on God. The text above gives us important clues of how to wait.
- Wait on God with humility. “Under God’s mighty hand” references God’s power. His face is who He is; His hand refers to His ability to act. God is able to do what you need Him to do. To wait humbly we must cast our anxiety about our situation on Him and leave it there. Let go, and let God!
- Wait on God with confidence. God cares for us. He loves us even when in our minds we question why He doesn’t remove the present suffering. It’s at this point of waiting that the enemy roars in our ears accusations against God to undermine our faith. Remember: the loudest voice in your head is often not the truest one.
- Wait on God with perseverance. When we are suffering there is a great temptation to give up on God and take matters into our own hands. If we persevere, God Himself will use the waiting period before the kairos to make us “strong, firm, and steadfast.” “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time (kairos) we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
“He answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends….’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.’” Luke 15:29,31
You can go to church, keep the ten commandments, and have everyone think you’re a good person, yet miss true intimacy with God. The older brother in the story of the prodigal son represents the Pharisees who were also listening to him and grumbling to themselves, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2) The name Pharisee means, “separate one.” These guys kept all of God’s laws outwardly, went to synagogue all the time, and presumed that they were pleasing to God because of their performance. The older brother was angry that the father had received back the prodigal because he felt that his younger brother didn’t deserve forgiveness and the party his father threw for him.
In the text quoted above Jesus tells of how the older brother had served the father and kept all of his commandments. The brother then complained that nothing has been done to reward him for all of his performing. He was living more like a slave than a son and was waiting for the father to pay him. The father says, “you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.” You can’t work for what is already yours. If he wanted to have a party all he needed to do was ask. That is how grace works.
Galatians 4 tells us that Jesus was born under the law so that he might “redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” It goes on to say that the Father has sent His Spirit into our hearts so that you and I are “no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7) We could never have become God’s children by the law of performance because His holiness demands a perfection we could never obtain. So He sent His own Son who lived perfectly under the law and then died as a sacrifice for all of us who have broken the law. We become His children by receiving His grace.
Sometimes we lose track of grace when we’ve been in the church awhile and begin to think that we are worthy of the place we have in Christ because of all our service. It is important that we keep the “amazing” in grace, remembering that He came to save and love undeserving people just like us.
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Galatians 4:4-5
To redeem something means to bring it back from its broken or ruined state by restoring it. After our sin, God could have started over, but He chose instead to redeem.
A few years ago we had our VW Passat fixed from a problem it had with overheating. The first time I drove it after the “fix” was to a place about an hour away where it promptly broke down. We had it towed from there to a local mechanic who told me the engine was destroyed, and said he wouldn’t even work on it. We then had it towed back to our mechanic in Madison.
After running tests on it, our mechanic explained what had happened, and owned their mistake. He said that he learned in his analysis that there was a catch underneath this specific engine that collected waste, and at some point it had become too much. When the engine was idling it looked fine, so they thought the problem was solved, but when I drove it away the waste was carried back up into the engine and caused the irreparable damage.
It was a 2003 model, so the book value wasn’t much. He said something like this to me: “I could give you a check for $2,000, and you could put that toward a different vehicle, or you could buy a new engine (at a much reduced cost) and I would put it in for free.”
It would have been easy to take his check, but I still saw a lot of value in that old car. I chose redemption instead of starting over. So did God, and it wasn’t cheap. At just the right time in history, Jesus was born so He could die on a cross and pay for our redemption. The Son became a Savior, so we could become the very children of God.
This is the “good news of great joy!”
“Train yourself to be godly. Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1Timothy 4:7-8
To train ourselves to be godly is to reorder our lives in a way that makes living close to God our highest priority. Asaph said, “the nearness of God is my good.” (Psalm 73:28) In what way is godliness good for us?
First, Paul says it’s valuable in this present life. Later in his letter he gives a qualifier: “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out.” (6:6-7) The more we pursue godliness with contentment the more we live defined by God and the more all other definitions fade away. We are not our financial net worth, or what other people think we are, or even how we define ourselves – we are God’s masterpiece! (Ephesians 2:10) Only the godly grow away from the traps of this world into their true identity. Letting the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Galatians 2:20) be the One who defines us is tremendously liberating. His perfect love drives out fear and insecurity (1John 4:18), so that we can simply be ourselves filled with His Holy Spirit.
Then Paul says godliness has value for the life to come. Asaph says that those who live “far from You will perish; You put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to You.” (Psalm 73:27) The ungodly will “perish like beasts” (2Peter 2:12) and “be consumed” eventually in the eternal fire (Hebrews 10:27), but the godly will share eternal life with God. This is the simple gospel: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Godliness begins by forsaking our own works and by putting our trust in Jesus Christ because salvation is God’s gift to us. “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness (right standing with God!).” (Romans 4:4-5)
“Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Galatians 4:30
You cannot earn as a reward what is yours by inheritance, so when we go back to performing for God, the benefits of grace dry up. The Old Covenant, the slave woman, only blesses those who keep the law. Because no one can keep the law, all of her children become slaves of the fear and guilt which come from never being good enough.
Paul is stunned that the Galatians are allowing anyone to seduce them back into a performance identity because the fruit is so bad. “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you… are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?… Does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:1-4)
In Luke 15 Jesus tells us about the older brother who becomes angry at the Father’s generosity toward the prodigal: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” Listen to the Father’s response, not just to the older brother, but to all His children who are living like slaves in His house: “My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours.”
Did you know that in Christ you have an abundant inheritance as a favored child of God? “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ (you are always with me) So you are no longer a slave but a son; since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (and everything I have is yours) (Galatians 4:7)
“So why don’t I feel like an heir?” you may ask. Maybe it’s because you haven’t once and for all put away the performance identity. Maybe you’ve been seduced in your heart and are still trying to perform for God’s approval instead of accepting it by faith. It’s time to take decisive action and “get rid of the slave woman and her son!”
I am so ready to walk in favored son status instead of being a slave to performance. How about you?