Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Highest Authority

Photo by Scgibler 2017

As we celebrate President’s Day, it is fitting for Christians to consider what the Bible says about those in authority over us. No matter how our personal feelings or our political leanings affect our thoughts about those in office, Scripture tells us to pray for those who rule over us (1 Timothy 2:2).

This is appropriate, for there is no power that be whom God has not appointed to accomplish His specific purposes (Romans 13:1). We may not understand His choices, for His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet we are not to resist the powers over us, for they are of God, and rebellion would be against God Himself, leading to not only earthly consequences but to His judgment on us (Romans 13:2).

When David fled for his life from King Saul, who in a jealous rage wanted him dead for being more popular with the people as a warrior leader than Saul was, David finally had the opportunity to take the life of Saul as he slept. But he could not even lay a hand on him, for he realized that Saul at that time was the Lord’s anointed, and that his own hour to rule awaited God’s perfect timing (1 Samuel 24:4-13).

The apostle Paul established an authority structure revealed to him by Christ Himself. All of us, whether male or female, Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free men, are equal in God’s sight and one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). God extends to whosoever shall call upon the Name of Jesus Christ the freely given gift of salvation (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13).

Regardless of our past, social status, nationality, or family history, all can be saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Yet we are all subject to the curse of sin (Romans 3:23), so God has ordained a power structure on earth to prevent chaos in our society and relationships. If we are to love others as God loves us (John 13:34-35), we must put their needs above our own, even if we are in a position of relative authority (Mark 9:35).

In marriage, wives are to submit to their husbands, and yet husbands are to love their wives self-sacrificingly, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:21-33). Children are to submit to their parents, and yet parents should not provoke them to anger (Ephesians 6:1-4) and should give them good gifts (Matthew 7:11).

Employees are to submit to their employers, working as if working for God directly and not for an imperfect human, who like all humans can make mistakes. Yet the employer is to consider the needs of those under his authority, for God has placed him in a position of responsibility to be a good steward (Ephesians 6:5-9).

Even within the church there is an authority structure. Christ Himself is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:18), or the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4), and under Him is the pastor or bishop (Titus 1:7-9), who is the undershepherd. The elders or deacons report to the pastor, as do the teachers, worship and music directors, and other church leaders, and the congregation submits to all of their leadership. Yet the pastor, elders and leaders must also consider the needs of the flock over their own preferences (1 Timothy 3:1-13).

To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48), particularly in government where those elected or appointed to power should serve the good of their people ahead of their own ambition. The kings of Israel are an excellent example of how good rulers do this, whereas bad rulers fail to do so. The greatest rulers do not lord their power over their subjects, but serve and minister to them, following Christ’s example (Matthew 20:25-28). As He walked the earth, Jesus Himself submitted to the authority of God the Father (Matthew 21:23-27).

Sometimes God may allow bad rulers into power as a form of judgment, allowing nations to get the tyrants they deserve. When the righteous rule, their subjects rejoice, but when the wicked rule, their subjects mourn (Proverbs 29:2).

Yet regardless of the relative attributes or shortcomings of their earthly rulers, Christians should follow the law of the land, including paying taxes (Romans 13:7). Jesus Christ Himself instructed Peter to pay taxes on behalf of Himself and the apostles (Matthew 17:24-27; 22:17-22). He Himself said that He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).

Thankfully, the laws of the United States, and those of many other nations, are based on Biblical law, or the Ten Commandments and other laws given by God to Moses to govern God’s people (Exodus 20:1-17). Christians should therefore submit to their earthly rulers and the laws they establish, while realizing that we ultimately serve the highest authority, and it is to Him that we pledge our highest allegiance (Matthew 6:33; Colossians 1:18).

For the most part, if we do good as God defines it, we will be keeping the law of the land, which is established to prevent and punish evil (Romans 13:3-5).  If and when we cannot keep the laws of the land and of God at the same time, God’s law must be our guiding principle (Acts 5:29).

To avoid this conflict, Christians should be diligent not only to pray for salvation, wisdom and guidance for those in authority, but also to humble ourselves and pray for our nation. If we who are God’s people humble ourselves and confess our sins, individually and as a nation, He will hear us and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

As we celebrate President’s Day, may we remember to pray for those in authority over us, for healing and forgiveness in our land, and for Holy Spirit guidance to first honor and obey our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! 

© 2018 Laurie Collett


Saturday, February 10, 2018

How Does God Love Me? Let Me Count Three Ways.

Photo by Coyau 2010
Valentine’s Day started me thinking about perfect Love, the Supreme Lover, and the ultimate Loving Gift. God’s love for us is infinite, eternal, and unconditional, for it has no limits, transcends all time, and requires nothing in return.
His infinite love reflects His almighty power (Genesis 17:1, 18:14; 28:3, Jeremiah 32:27; Colossians 1:16) to give us all good things (Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13); His perfect wisdom, to know and do what is best for us (Psalm 139; Romans 8:28; 11:33-36); and His omnipresence, to protect, embrace and comfort us no matter where we go (Psalm 139; Revelation 1:8).
He alone is love itself (1 John 4:8), the source of all blessings (James 1:17), and the light that overcomes all darkness (2 Samuel 22:29; Psalm 112:4; Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16; John 1:5; 8:12; 12:35,46; 1 John 1:5). He made His loving plan for us (Jeremiah 33:2-3) from the foundation of time (2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:4); He loved us from before we were even conceived (Psalm 139:16;Jeremiah 1:5); and His love is everlasting, continuing throughout eternity (Jeremiah 31:3). We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
We know His unconditional love through His grace, as He gives us blessings we don’t deserve (Ephesians 2:8); His mercy, as He spares us from the punishment we do deserve (Psalm 109:26; 136:26; Isaiah 30:18; Romans 11:30; Ephesians 2:1-7) and His universal acceptance of all who have faith in His Son’s death, burial and resurrection as the only way to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), regardless of their race, sex, or religious heritage (Galatians 3:28).
Because His love is unconditional, it is self-sacrificing to the point of death (1 John 3:16), it flows from a servant’s heart (John 13:5-14), and it is unmerited, for there is nothing we can do to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9). He gave us the perfect Gift of His sinless Son, Who willingly laid down His life for us (John 15:13), empowered by the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 12:2-4). And He did all this while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:5), rebels against His truth (1 John 4:3), and His enemies (Romans 5:10).
The incomprehensible richness of this love is possible only because He is One in Three Persons: our Father (Matthew 6:9); Jesus, our Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15); and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter (John 14:16). Each Member of the Trinity not only exemplifies what each of these relationships should ideally be like with their earthly counterparts, but each is perfect, complete, and ever present to sustain us.
God the Father sits on His throne in Heaven (Psalm 45:6; 47:8; Matthew 5:34, from which He rules all things, everywhere, throughout all time, commanding all matter, space and time. Yet He is our Abba Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6), our Daddy Who loves for us to come running to Him for reassurance, forgiveness, and encouragement (Luke 15:20). We can boldly approach His throne (Hebrews 4:16) with our requests because when our Holy Father looks at us, He does not see our sins, but only the perfect righteousness of His Son Who was the perfect sacrifice reconciling sinners to Holy God (Romans 3:25: 1 John 2:2). 
Not only was Jesus that perfect Sacrifice, and now the High Priest Who intercedes for us while sitting at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews12:2), but He is also our Betrothed, for the church of born-again believers is His bride. He is our Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15), Husband (2 Corinthians 11:2), and Beloved (Song of Solomon 2:3,8-10,16,17), as we saw in an earlier post
According to the Jewish marriage custom, a man seeking to marry breaks bread with his beloved and her father, and if she accepts his proposal, she drinks from the same cup that he does. He then returns to his father’s house to build an addition for himself and his bride, and when his father decides the new home is ready, the groom returns unannounced to claim his bride, carrying her off with a great shout in the middle of the night. Therefore, the bride-to-be must keep herself pure and ready, for she knows that he will come back for her, but she doesn’t know when. 
When we place our faith in the power of Christ’s shed blood, it is as if we drink of that cup of suffering with Him, and during the remainder of our earthly life we become more conformed to His image through those sufferings and through the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10). We are the bride awaiting Christ’s return, and only the Father will determine when the mansion He is preparing for us is ready (John 14:2-3; Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32). Without warning, at the sound of the trumpet, He will snatch us away to meet with Him in the air (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) and take part in the marriage ceremony and feast (Revelation 19:7-9).
We must therefore be like the wise virgins awaiting the Bridegroom’s return, keeping our lamps trimmed and filled with oil, symbolizing being filled with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 25:1-13). Only through the Spirit is it possible for us to remain separated and holy as His bride, preparing for His return.
Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit, Who indwells each believer at the moment of salvation (John 14:17), is our constant Comforter, Companion, and Guide (John 16:7). At the moment of salvation, He gives each of us at least one spiritual gift to use to grow the church by sharing the Gospel, to fortify the church by helping, exhorting, and teaching fellow believers, and to glorify God in all that we do (1 Corinthians 12).
Throughout our Christian walk, the Comforter enables us to bear the fruit of the Spirit, described in three groups of three (Galatians 5:22-23): the sweet fruit we enjoy of love, joy and peace; the fruit governing our relationships with each other (longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness), and the fruit of self-control (faith, meekness, and temperance). 
As our Companion, He is the Friend Who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), for He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). How can He leave us, for He inhabits our very body (1 Corinthians 3:16) as His temple! As our Guide, the Spirit constantly draws our focus to Jesus Christ (John 15:26; 16:13-14), teaches us to understand the Scripture (John 14:26), and allows us to know that we belong to God evermore (1 John 4:13-16).
Praise Him that He allows us to be children of God the Father, joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) through our relationship to Our Father and as the betrothed of God the Son, and His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) through the work of the Holy Spirit!  What greater love could there be? 
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 
© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives