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Our Problem With Authority

Alistair Huong
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"Authority" is a bad word in much of modern society. Yet, our relation and reaction to authority will determine our eternal destiny. This message explores the reasons why.

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Alistair Huong

Executive Director of AudioVerse

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Recorded

  • November 10, 2018
    11:00 AM
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Gracious heavenly Father, we are so privileged to gather in Your house of worship on a Sabbath day in peace. Lord, we know that many of our brethren around the world and even in this country do not have the luxury. And so we pray right now that Your Holy Spirit may fill us, and may we be grateful for the blessings You have given to us, but at the same time may we be ready to respond, to receive the Word and to act according to what we learn. May Your Holy Spirit teach us and guide us and open our hearts and minds to receive and accept what You wish us to understand now. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

So, you see on the slide our title, and you see it in your bulletin, “Our Problem With Authority.” When you hear the word “authority,” what is your kneejerk, gut reaction? What kind of feelings? You don’t have to answer out loud. Just think, rhetorically, how does the word “authority” make you feel? Does it make you feel warm and fuzzy and cuddly and…Or is it more…or are you more like me? I’m going to confess, okay? When I think of the word “authority,” these words come to mind: Stern, harsh, punishment, discipline, maybe even arbitrary? Authoritarian? Does that resonate with you at least a little bit? The word “authority” has somewhat of that connotation, at least in this day and age. It’s not necessarily a positive, warm, cuddly feeling, right?

 

But I’m here to say…I’m going to, right at the outset, make this statement, and I’m going to try to prove my point through the message this morning. And that is that our relationship, our reaction to the word “authority” is going to determine our ultimate destiny. Let me say that one more time, maybe in a different way. How we respond and interact and understand and accept authority in our lives will determine our eternal destiny. I’m going to try to make that point now from Scripture, but think with me for just a moment.

 

Authority figures in our lives, here are a list of them. What do we think about these authority figures or institutions now? When we hear the word “police,” when I was growing up, policemen were nice. We think of them as the people that you can stop on the side of the road and ask for directions, right? Now, I’m not trying to make a political statement, merely describing the spirit of the times, when we talk about police or law enforcement, it’s like side eye, right? Like, “Mmt? Mmt? I’m not going to let my eyes off you,” type of feeling.

 

And when we talk about border patrol, now I’m getting into hot water, right? It’s like, “Whoa, are we really sure we trust those guys down there?” There’s a mistrust of those authority figures in our lives. What about the government? It’s almost like a running joke, right? The government, so inept, always corrupt. It’s like the joke, how do you know when a politician is lying? “If their lips are moving and words are coming out,” that’s how you know. So, you know, we have jokes like that, and what does it reveal about our undercurrent, the undercurrent and our understanding about government as an authority figure? It’s like a rolling of the eyes, right?

 

What about rules? You know, there’s this idea now that rules are there to be broken. Or at the very least, they’re there to be bent, to be tested. Authority is to be questioned.

 

What about parents? This is a fun run. If you’ve ever watched any sitcom television show, Disney movie maybe, have you ever noticed that parents are always the ignorant, the stupid ones that just don’t get it? Have you ever noticed that? Like, parents, especially the dad, and now that I’m a dad, I take umbrage at this, okay? The dad is there for the comic relief. He’s the bumbling fool, right, that has to be set right, you know, either the mom or the rebellious children who always are the heroes of the story. There’s this undercurrent of how parents are being portrayed through this societal view that parents as authority figures are at best comic relief. Let’s just write them off; parents are so out of touch. “My parents don’t even know how to use Instagram. I mean, come on. How can I take them seriously,” right?

 

But what about the church? Religion. You’ve heard the saying, “Well, I’m spiritual but not religious.” You know what they’re saying when people say that? “Well, I believe in having a spiritual life. I believe in having faith and all that, but I don’t believe in organized religion because it is merely a system of control that I don’t accept, an authority figure in my life that I do not accept.” And so, religion in society, particularly here in the Western world, is being portrayed as a system to control the minds of the weak. If you are enlightened, if you are smart, if you are independent, “You’re not going to fall for that garbage, are you? Religion is there just to keep control over our young people so we can tell them what to do.” Authority in our society today, in short, has become a bad word.

 

And it is now placed in opposition to the ideas of individuality, liberty, equality, fighting for injustice, independence, right? That’s the American spirit. As if those things are mutually exclusive; they don’t have to be. But fighting against one seems almost automatically like we have to discard the other. Accepting authority in our lives now is like a sign of weakness, a sign of giving up our rights, when in actuality, and this is really my thesis for this hour, is that authority is the core issue in the Great Controversy. It is the absolute foundational issue, and that is why I’m here to say our relationship with authority, particularly godly authority, is going to determine whether we’re on the right side of the gates of the New Jerusalem? So, why or how can I know this?

 

Well, let’s begin at the very beginning, shall we? Let’s go to Isaiah, chapter 14, Isaiah, chapter 14, verses 12-14. We know this story well. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit also upon the mount of the congregation on the sides of the north;  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’” In short, what was Lucifer’s problem? He had, yes, an “I” problem, but beyond that. All the ophthalmologists, optometrists, rejoice. But the problem with himself is he wanted himself to be the highest authority. You see that. He wanted to usurp God’s authority; that was the issue.

 

To make this crystal clear, let’s look at the book The Story of Redemption, page 15, paragraph 1, “There was contention among the angels. Lucifer and his sympathizers were striving to reform the government of God.” By the way, notice the choice of words. Lucifer and his angels, what did they think they were doing to the government of God? Reforming it! They were not rebellious. We’re going to come back to that idea in just a moment, but notice the choice of words, how they think about what they’re doing, “They rebelled against the authority of the Son.” There you have it in a nutshell. In one sentence, the whole Great Controversy summed up: Sinners, Lucifer and his angels, and later on, humanity, rebelling against authority of God. But specifically Lucifer had a problem with a certain member of the Godhead. Which one was it? The Son, or Christ.

 

The issue in the Great Controversy is authority of the Son of God. Lucifer looked at Him and said, “I’m not bowing down to Him. I’m just as good as Him. So I am going to masquerade my crusade to uplift myself under the pretext of fighting for the liberty of the angels against this tyrannical Man called the Son of God.”

 

Rebellion, this is my point, rebellion always has a compelling pretext. This is an important point because if you went up to Satan, or Lucifer back then, and his angels, and you said, “Why are you rebelling?” We already saw, they will say, “We are not rebelling.” The rebellious never believe or think that they are rebelling because a rebellion must always have a compelling pretext to cover up the real underlying motive.

 

Let me make this abundantly clear. Let’s take a look. This is the previous page in The Story of Redemption, page 14, “He,” meaning Lucifer, “told them,” the angels, “that henceforth all the sweet liberty the angels had enjoyed was at an end,” because Jesus or the Son Christ was being lifted up above them. “For had not a ruler been appointed over them, to whom they from henceforth must yield servile honor? He stated to them that he had called them together to assure them that he no longer would submit to this invasion of his rights and theirs.” You notice how this rebellion was couched. The motivation that was galvanizing the angels on Satan’s side was, “We have to right this wrong. We have to fight for our rights. There is this injustice in the government of Heaven that must be made right.”

 

Satan continues, “That never would he again bow down to Christ; that he would take the honor upon himself which should have been conferred upon him, and would be the commander of all who would submit to follow him and obey his voice.” So you notice that Lucifer had a problem that originated with disputing the authority of the Son of God, but to cover up his true issue, his jealousy and his problem with authority, he had to come up with a compelling pretext, and it was so compelling that one-third of unfallen, perfect angels in Heaven believed it.

 

And what did they believe? They believed that they were being treated unjustly. They believed that it was unfair what God was doing to them, and as a result, they listened and they obeyed Lucifer, not to rebel but to reform the government of God. You follow the train of this story? But where does it end up?

 

Let’s take a look at the next passage. This is again The Story of Redemption, page 17, paragraph 1, “The great God could at once have hurled this archdeceiver from heaven; but this was not His purpose. He would give the rebellious an equal chance to measure strength and might with His own Son and His loyal angels. In this battle every angel would choose his own side and be manifested to all. It would not have been safe to suffer any who united with Satan in his rebellion to continue to occupy heaven.” Notice the last sentence, “They had learned the lesson of genuine rebellion against the unchangeable law of God, and this is,” what, “incurable.”

 

How would you feel if you went to see the doctor, and he says, “I’m sorry, we have discovered that you have a tumor in your chest, and it is incurable”? That would be the worst thing ever. That would be the last thing you want to hear. But notice carefully, “Genuine rebellion is a disease that is incurable.” And how did Lucifer get there? It all began with a question, with a doubt and a rejection of rightful godly authority in his life. He moved down that train track, he had to justify his feelings, he came up with a compelling pretext, he brought a group together to launch in this reformation of righting the wrongs that he viewed in the government of God, and they believed it so wholeheartedly that they genuinely believed that they were right and God was wrong.

 

They came to the point where they were willing to die for their misguided cause. And you understand why, then, genuine rebellion, when the seed of rebellion takes root as sprouts and grows to its logical conclusion, genuine rebellion is incurable. It is equivalent to the unpardonable sin because you have turned God into the very enemy that you would rather die than submit to.

 

A relationship with authority will determine our fate in the Great Controversy, but, of course, that’s not the end of the story, is it? History repeats itself. Rebellion in Heaven moves to Earth. There are a lot of other examples we can give, but here’s perhaps the most poignant one, Korah, Dathan and Abiram in Numbers, chapter 16.

 

They come to Moses, and they have a dispute with Moses. It specifically has to do with Moses’ authority, and this is what they say. They say, “All the congregation are holy.” I’m not reading the whole verse for sake of time. You can go back and read it in verses 1 through 3. In essence, what they say is, “Everyone in this congregation is holy. We are all God’s chosen people. Why are you, Moses, lifting yourself up above us?”

 

In short, what are they contending for? “What about our rights as God’s holy people? This is inequality, Moses, for you to take on the leadership responsibility when we are all capable. This is discrimination. This is injustice. You are violating our rights.” You notice this is the compelling pretext in Korah’s rebellion. And the same thing is said about that rebellion in Selected Messages, Volume 2, page 393, paragraph 2. Ellen White writes, “I question whether genuine rebellion is ever curable.” Same language as the rebellion in Heaven. “Study in Patriarchs and Prophets the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”

 

I leave that to you to study in depth the story, but I’ll tell you the end of the story. Korah, Dathan and Abiram challenges Moses. Moses says, “Okay, fine. God will make known who is His people.” Korah, Dathan and Abiram, what was their end result? The earth opened up and swallowed them. Would that catch your attention? Would you be like, “Hmm! I wonder if they were right after all?” Would that even cross your mind?

 

But notice carefully what happens in Numbers, chapter 16, verse 41. The camp is obviously shocked and awed at what happened. They go back, they sleep on it, and the next morning they go back to Moses. This is what they say, direct quote, “But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the LORD.’”

 

Is it any wonder that genuine rebellion is an incurable disease because that illustrates how self-deluded people become when they follow this path of the rejection of rightful authority into open rebellion to its logical conclusion? They see the miracle of the earth opening up and swallowing the rebels, and they still think the rebels are right. Have mercy! And in fact, God started a plague that started wiping people out, and it was literally the mercies of God that the entire camp was not consumed.

 

We look at these stories, and we think, “Wow! That is terrible! That is horrible!” And what are we trying to say? This is actually Satan’s end game; that’s what we’re trying to say. Okay, let’s take a look, 4T (Testimonies for the Church), Volume 4, page 211, paragraph 1, “It is Satan’s plan to weaken the faith of God’s people in the Testimonies. Next follows skepticism in regard to the vital points of our faith, the pillars of our position, then doubt as to the Holy Scriptures, and then the downward march to perdition. When the Testimonies, which were once believed, are doubted and given up, Satan knows the deceived ones will not stop at this; and he redoubles his efforts till he launches them into,” what, “open rebellion, which becomes incurable and ends in destruction.”

 

So why am I bringing up all these stories in history? It’s because that’s exactly what Satan is trying to do again. The script that played out in Heaven, it worked in the camp of Israel, and Satan knows it will work again. And that’s his point. His end game is to lead you and I to get to the point of open rebellion because he knows then that we are incurable. But where does it all start?

 

Where does it all start? A subtle doubt, a little bit of discomfort that leads to rejection and questioning and throwing on and casting off of rightful authority in our lives. But when we think about it, there are only two options when we face authority. When we are faced with authority figures in our lives, it is not a neutral term; you can’t have no reaction. You are forced into a reaction if you are placed in front of an authority. And this is why we have to choose. This is not a matter of, “Oh, I’ll just wait on it. I’ll sleep on it. Maybe someday things will work out.” No, we’re going to have to choose.

 

If there is an authority figure that is presented before us, we have the choice to either rebel like Satan did or to submit. There is no middle ground. But the human race, we have an interesting way of thinking, and this is what we think, “I’ll submit only if I agree. If you convince me, then, like, we’re trying to be like…We’re reasonable here. Just convince me.”

 

But listen carefully, if we agree, we’re not submitting. If we agree, we’re just going along with what we already believe. You understand that when we talk about having an authority, the idea of submission, it is predicated on the fact that there is a disagreement. If there’s no disagreement, there’s no submission needed. You understand? The issue of authority is solely, almost exclusively, for the reality of when there’s a disagreement between two parties, the authoritative party is the one that gets preference.

 

And so, it is sort of a crazy notion, but when we think about God and what He tells us, we don’t have to agree, to submit. And in fact, there’s another word. There’s another word that we like to use in Christianity that really sums up the essence of the Christian journey. What’s that word? Surrender. We’ve heard of that word, haven’t we? God must be allowed to be God in our lives. God is the ultimate authority, and by surrendering to Him, what are we doing? We are in essence saying, “We do not accept Lucifer’s lie that God’s government needs reform.” We are saying, in surrendering our lives to Jesus, that we disagree and we disavow the rebellion that started in Heaven. And what does that mean? It means, “God, I don’t really need to understand everything. I don’t need to have all of the reasons make sense because I get it: You are God. I am not, and I am in a better position when I just simply surrender all to You.”

 

So, in the Christian life, we love to say Jesus is our Savior. Everybody loves having someone take their place, right, when there’s a penalty. “Oh, He’s going to die so I don’t?!” “Of course.” “Wonderful.” But there’s a second half to that. That’s only half the gospel because what else does Jesus have to be? He has to be Lord. I don’t know if, you know, maybe sometimes we think, like, the Bible terms don’t really equate to real life, but what does it mean to have a “Lord”? To have a “King”? To have a “Ruler”? To have an “Authority Figure” in our lives that we submit to? That’s what it means when we say, “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” It means, “I accept His sacrifice on my behalf, and then I’m going to do what He tells me.” That’s Christianity. And why must that be Christianity? Because that is the fundamental lying issue in the Great Controversy.

 

There was a being in Heaven that said, I’m not going to do what you tell me anymore.” And the only way that we can make it back to Heaven is we, at some point, are going to have to say, “You know what? I’m not going to have it my way. I’m going to have it Your way, God.” That’s called the Plan of Salvation in a nutshell.

 

So, how do we submit, okay? You say, “All right, fine! I surrender,” but how do we do it practically? The Protestant Reformers had a rallying cry, “Sola Scriptura.” What does that mean? It means “the Bible and the Bible only as our source of authority.” And so, the Bible, being the clearest communication that God has with fallen humanity, it’s His Word, that then becomes how we submit to Jesus.

 

John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them through thy truth: they word is truth.” Isaiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” In short, if I accept Jesus as my authority, I will do what He says. Well, how do I know what He says? Well, He told me in the Bible.

 

Let’s read another statement. This makes it 100 percent clear. The Great Controversy, page 595, paragraph 1, “But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support.” (Can we say Amen to that?) The Bible and the Bible only, that’s our highest authority. Why? Because it’s the Word of God, and God is our highest authority.

 

So all of this here, I hate to say this, but it’s the introduction because here is the point. Where we’re moving on next, and that is, that in the Bible, in the written expressed will of God, God has told us that He has placed delegated authorities on the earth to help us in our experience in practicing how to submit. Let me give you an example.

 

When I was in high school, sometimes I would have a substitute teacher, and I lived on the campus because I was at a boarding academy for my senior year, and sometimes the dean and the assistant dean would be gone, and we would have a substitute dean as well. And, you know, we were high school boys, so, what do you suppose we did to the substitute? We would harass them. We would tease them and needle them, and we would give them a hard time. Nobody got hurt or anything, as if that’s an excuse, but guess what happened one day. The principal of our high school came to the boy’s dorm, she sat us all down, and she gave us a little speech. She said, “In whatsoever you do unto your assistant dean or substitute dean, you are doing unto me. So, if you are caught harassing this poor gentleman who is here to take care of you, you are, in essence, doing that to me. And you wouldn’t want to do that to me, right? Because if you did that to me, you’re going to get a punishment.”

 

That’s what I mean when I say God has delegated sources of authority on the earth. They are not God; they do not possess innately within them by virtue of their ontology or whatever you want to call it. They are not the source of authority in and of themselves, but they are vested, they are granted authority by virtue of the position because of what God has declared. And why does God do this? And we’ll see this in just a moment. It’s so that God can place us in relationship with organizations, with individuals, with figures in our earthly experience to help us understand what it looks like, how to submit to God, the ultimate authority.

 

So there are multiple sources of authority that God has delegated. We’re just going to look at three of them real quickly. The first one is parental authority. Patriarchs and Prophets, page 308, paragraph 2, and also 337, paragraph 1, it says this, “God Himself, who has placed upon them,” meaning the parents, “a responsibility for the souls committed to their charge, has ordained that during the earlier years of life, parents shall stand in the place of God to their children. And he who rejects the rightful authority of his parents is rejecting the authority of God.” And all the parents in this room said? “Amen!” So notice carefully, notice carefully, it says specifically in the earlier years of life. So there’s a balance here, right? So once you turn 18, 20, 25, 35, 55, your parents’ relation to you necessarily will change than if you were a 3-, 4- or 5-year-old. We understand that.

 

But the fact is that God has placed parents in our lives to help us understand and to have a relationship to understand God’s authority over us because God is our heavenly Father, so He gives us earthly parents to understand how do we submit. What does that look like? And also for the parents, it places us in a position or responsibility to rightly represent God to our children as well. Amen? Yeah, that’s for you kids. All right?

 

But let’s continue reading, “Contempt for parental authority will soon lead to contempt for the authority of God. Hence Satan's efforts to lessen the obligation of the fifth commandment.” So you notice there very clearly we are told parental authority leads us to better understand Godly authority. If we disregard, if we are in the habit of disregarding parental authority, it leads us to a place of much more readily having contempt for divine authority. It’s to teach us by modeling in human relation how we ought to relate with God.

 

All right, so let’s give a little bit of a balancing statement to that because, God forbid, some of us parents get a power trip, and we say, “Ha, ha, we’re God, so we’re going to put you under our thumb.” Well, unfortunately parental and domestic abuse does happen, so we do need to give the balancing statement from Scripture, again, our highest authority. Ephesians 6, verses 1-4, it says, “Children, obey your parents” (What’s the qualification there?) “in the Lord: for this is right.” So remember, God’s authority is always higher than our parents’ authority. But insofar as our parents are in harmony with God’s Word and His Law, we are to respect and honor them. But if our parents say, “You need to disregard God’s Law,” then we must obey God rather than man.

 

“Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” There it is again. Parents have responsibility. We have to raise our children to exemplify to them what kind of authority God actually is. Our responsibility is to show our children that, look, “God is a loving, caring, merciful, compassionate authority figure that you want to trust in because He’s going to protect you, and He’s got your back.” Okay, that’s what our parents are supposed to illustrate.

 

But nevertheless, and let’s just remember this, do we obey our parents only when what they say makes sense? Especially as children. You guys are like, “I don’t want to answer because I’m going to condemn myself.” But let’s just make this very clear: When we honor our father and our mother, that means we give preference to them. That means, when they want something that is not contrary to the clear, “Thus saith the Lord,” and we want something else, most of the time, especially when we are young and under their roof and under their care, we as children submissive to them are obligated to go their way. That’s the way God designed it. That’s the way we ought to understand our relationship with our parents as well as with God.

 

But let’s move on. The second source of delegated authority is civil authority, talking about the governments of the earth. Romans 13, verses 1-3 say this, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from,” where, “God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.”

 

Verses 4 through 6 say, “For he is God’s minister,” notice, the government is God’s minister, “to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.” So you must be thinking, “Oh, yeah, I get it.” You know, “I voted last week.” You know, “I did my civic duty.” “Yeah, I believe.” “Yeah, okay, let’s move on.”

 

Wait, wait, wait, let’s pause a moment and tap the brakes. What was the governing authority in Paul’s day when he wrote this? I mean it was in the name of the book, right? He was writing to the Romans. What kind of government was that? It was, let’s just say, cruel. It was an evil, corrupt, unjust, enslaving type of governing authority. You remember King Herod? He was a magistrate of the Roman Empire. What did he do to the babies in Bethlehem when Jesus was born? He killed the baby boys. What, you know, crucifixion, we think about crucifixion and, “Oh, it’s so horrible; it’s terrible.”

 

Well, guess what? That was what happened when people were on death row in government in the Roman Empire. This was the same government that would later destroy the temple in A.D. 70. This was a government that was not known to be nice. They were a cruel, pagan, unjust society, and Paul says they are God’s minister. We are to pay our taxes and render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s.

 

The point is again, when God places authority figures in our lives, it presupposes that there will be times of disagreement. And it means, when there is a time of disagreement, we who are the ones in subjection to those authorities are obligated to submit, within reason. We’re going to talk about balancing statements later. But it’s not just when we agree is why submission is needed. But let’s look at that statement now.

 

In Acts of the Apostles, page 68, paragraph 2, “We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere.” Here’s the balance, “But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men. God's word must be recognized as above all human legislation.” We know that the End-Time scenario is going to be a conflict between the Law of God and the laws of the government with a death decree attached to it. So we understand the End-Time significance of this.

 

But let me make this point clear: When we go to Heaven, who is going to be our Head of State? It’s not a trick question. God is going to be our Head of State. And are we going to understand what it means to submit to Him as our governing authority if we don’t understand how to do that here? So, you see, God gave us parental authority because we are to submit to God as a heavenly Father. He gave us earthly civil governments to submit to because He is going to be our Head of State when we get to Heaven as our governing authority, and that was part of Satan’s problem, wasn’t it? He wanted to be King, not God.

 

So let’s move on to our third and final earthly authority today, and that is ecclesiastical authority. Acts of the Apostles, page 163, paragraph 2, says this, “There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence.” There’s that word again. Lucifer’s motive, right? “They seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly esteem the judgment of his brethren, especially of those in the offices that God has appointed for the leadership of His people.” Here’s the key, “God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for he who does this despises the voice of God.” Sound familiar? It’s like what God said about parents.

 

God has invested the church on this earth, His remnant church, the Bible prophets, the highest spiritual authority on earth. And this is reflected in the Bible. In Matthew, chapter 18, verses 15 through 18, we quote this all the time, “If you have fault with your brother, go to him one-on-one first. If he doesn’t listen, then bring one or two with you.” But that seems to be where we always end the story.

 

It’s like, “Well, you didn’t come talk to me first.” “Okay, maybe I should have done that.” But notice that there’s a system of appeals here when dealing with moral issues. First you go to them one-on-one, then you bring a couple others, and then where does it go, in verse 17 there? “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to,” who, “the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

 

So the church, according to Christ’s words Himself, is the highest system of appeal. The buck stops with the church when it comes to spiritual and moral issues. You understand? When the church disfellowships someone, that is the highest spiritual authority that is speaking regarding a spiritual or moral issue. And this according to Jesus Himself. But within the church, within the church structure, there is one body, there is one place in which God has placed even the highest authority. And where is that? Let’s take a look.

 

This is in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, page 260, “Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work and to say what plans should be followed. But when, in a General Conference,” and when this word is used in this context, it’s the General Conference session, meaning the meeting every five years, not the headquarters of the Adventist Church. “When in General Conference,” session, “the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered.” There are those words again. “Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body.”

 

Do we hear some familiar words ringing here? There is a submission and surrender of our private ideas that’s necessary, but yet it seems as though Ellen White must have been inspired or something because she says that there are people who tend to hold as a virtue the spirit of independence. “I have to follow my own way. I’ve just got to do me.” “This is what I believe. I don’t care what everyone else believes.” But what we’re told is that because the church, particularly the General Conference in session with representatives from all the world, when they make a decision, we have to exercise the spirit of surrender and be willing to submit because God has delegated authority to this body.

 

One more statement here in 9T, 260, paragraph 2, “God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference,” in session, “shall have authority.” There is that word again. And if you think, “Well, that’s not found in the Bible.” If you read in Acts, chapter 15, there’s the Jerusalem council. There was an issue in the early church about whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised or not. The church gathered in Jerusalem. Representatives came from all the major churches at the time, and they discussed this issue. And guess what? It wasn’t merely a doctrinal issue, it was also a policy issue. And it covered the entire world field, and it had binding consequences.

 

And if you read, I should have put the quote on there, but if you read that chapter, in the book The Acts of the Apostles, it actually talks about there were people who disagreed with the Jerusalem council and continued to press their own agenda. And the Spirit of Prophecy says we ought to submit to the authority that God has vested into His church, again, even if we disagree, even if it doesn’t fully make sense, just like with our parents, just like with earthly civil authorities. God has placed the authority of the church in place to teach us how we can not make the same mistakes that Lucifer made in Heaven.

 

And there’s something that I learned once from a good friend of mine, a wise man who once put it this way, regarding particularly when we think about the church and how we make decisions: God leads us, meaning the church, more reliably than He leads just me. We have to remember this principle. The Bible says in multiple places, in a multitude of counselors there is safety. “When two or three are gathered together in My name, I am in the midst of them.” We always say those things when, like, during prayer meeting when there are two people who are like, “Don’t feel too bad. Jesus is still here.” But when we’ve got like 2,000, 3,000 delegates, representatives from around the world, who believe the truth, who are submitted to the Holy Spirit, who are praying for God’s Spirit to be poured out, who are committed to the same mission of the three angels, gathered together, do you think Jesus is not there?

 

And we ought to understand that as fallen feeble human beings, our judgment, no matter how much we pray, can perhaps be missing the big picture. Sometimes we might just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and we feel one way and we think another. Or maybe we just happen to have indigestion that day, and we feel like, you know, “I’m going to just vote this way instead of that way,” and our private interpretation of data might be skewed. We have to have less trust in ourselves and understand that God has set a system in place for a purpose! And why is that? It’s because God leads “us”; He doesn’t just lead “me.”

 

And when a collective body of us are pulling together for the same mission, I have to submit that perhaps there are certain things I don’t fully understand, but in my personal relationship with God, in my personal relation to His authority and His delegate authority in my life, I want to be sure that I am not inadvertently planting the seed of rebellion that might take root and grow and end up where Lucifer ended up.

 

If we think about Satan’s masterplan, his masterplan is very ingenious, and that is he wants to impugn the delegates. He knows that there are earthly delegates that God has placed as representatives of Himself in our lives on the earth. He looks at parents, and he wants to destroy the family, so we as children look at parents and say, “How can I submit to their authority, and end result we say, “I’m not going to accept God if He’s going to be a heavenly Father because if that’s what the earthly parents are like.”

 

Civil authority, of course, we see corruption in the government. We see injustice being done in society around us. We should do what we can to rectify those things within reason, but Satan’s masterplan is to cause us to doubt, to question earthly authority so the end result we have contempt for divine authority.

 

And the same goes in the church. When we look at the church, and we see people claiming one thing and doing another, and we see church leaders that say one thing and do another and don’t live up to the high calling, and we have disgruntlement, and we hear all of these fights going on, on Facebook and online and we’re wondering, “What is going on?!” we begin to have doubts about the authority figures that God has placed in our lives. And Satan’s masterplan is to plant that seed of rebellion that he had so that inadvertently, perhaps with a zeal that is worthy of a better cause, we pick up the false pretext that gets laid down, thinking that we are fighting for the cause of right, for justice, for liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when in actuality, we are kicking against the pricks. When in actuality we are actually on the wrong side, rebelling against the very authority figures that God has placed in our lives to save us. May the Lord have mercy, if that is where we find ourselves.

 

But I want to remember that two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because we have had imperfect examples of authority in our lives, it might make it difficult, but it doesn’t justify us disregarding what God has said. We have to remember it might be difficult. Some of us have more disadvantages than others in this regard, and I understand, but we just have to understand the fact that just because we have imperfect, perhaps abusive and poor earthly examples of authority, it does not exclude us, it doesn’t excuse us, from disregarding God’s rightful authority.

 

I want to remind us of our mission. Our mission is to take the three angels’ messages to the whole world. Notice what the first angel says. We’ll skip right to verse 7, “Saying with a loud voice,” this first angel, “‘Fear God.’” Oh, fancy that. The very first thing in the three angels’ messages is to replace God as rightful authority in our lives. Fear God. He is the ultimate authority; that’s what it means. Why? “‘Give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come.’” Well, again, why can He judge me? Because He’s the ultimate authority in the universe. “‘And worship him,’” why should I worship Him? Because He’s God, and He is the authority, “‘that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.’”

 

The Great Controversy began with a question mark on God’s authority. It blossomed into full-blown rebellion that God says is incurable when it runs its course. And so, that’s why the three angels’ messages, the final message that’s going to prepare the world for Jesus to come, at its core, right at the outset, God says we have to get this thing right. God must be placed back into His rightful place as the ultimate authority in our lives or else none of the rest matters.

 

And how do we do that? How do we do that? The key is we must as a people show who God is. If we in this room are in a position of authority over someone else, maybe we’re a teacher or a leader or parents or in some other position of responsibility, it behooves us to understand that we have the sacred responsibility of demonstrating to the people under us what it means to submit to God, who God is like, to draw them so they understand it’s not a harsh, authoritarian, stern, you know, arbitrary type of authority that I’m accepting in my life. But at the same time, we ourselves must represent the spirit of surrender, the spirit of humility, of humble submission to authority figures that God has placed over us, even when, especially when, things don’t make sense, when it’s difficult, when we disagree, because ultimately our relationship, as we said at the onset of this message, our relationship to this word “authority” will ultimately determine our eternal destiny.

 

So in conclusion, our appeal for today: Who is your authority? Who is the one that has the final say in your life? We all have authority figures in our lives, whether we believe it or not. Even those who claim that they will listen to no one. All they’re saying is they themselves are their highest authority.

 

It may be difficult for some of us to surrender to authority figures because of the wrongs that have been done in our lives, the pain inflicted [by] some authority figure that has bent our view of who God is, I don’t deny that. Perhaps it’s a parent, a teacher, a spiritual leader, a pastor, and it makes us afraid to submit to God. But two wrongs don’t make a right. God is not what we sometimes misrepresent Him to be. Don’t give up on seeking Him. It may be difficult for us to surrender because we will lose control. We have to submit our own ideas and our wishes and our emotions to God. We have to give up certain things. It might not be easy or pleasant, but may we be willing to submit because ultimately this is the root cause of the Great Controversy.

 

So perhaps for some of us today we have found ourselves in somewhat of a contentious, disputed relationship with certain authority figures that God has delegated authority to in our lives. Maybe it’s with our parents. Maybe it’s with some organization for which we are accountable to. Maybe it’s with the church. Perhaps we are disillusioned. We’re discouraged. We have questions. We disagree. We feel scared. My question simply is: Even if you don’t fully understand, even if you don’t fully get what all is involved, are you at least willing to say, “Lord, I want to place You and Your representatives in their rightful sphere of influence and authority in my life because I do not want the seed of rebellion to be found within me. I do not want to be found inadvertently on the wrong side in the Great Controversy”?

 

How many of you want to make that your decision, want to say, “Lord, help me to have a right relationship with authority that You have placed in my life, with You in Heaven, and also Your representatives on the earth”? Let me just see your hands where you are. I know that is my desire and my response as well.

 

So let us pray together as we conclude. Father in Heaven, Father, we know that You care for us more than life itself because You gave Your only begotten Son and that You gave Him to die for us in that while we were yet sinners. Lord, with love like this, You are the only type of authority figure that is safe to surrender our all to. And, Lord, we understand what this means.

 

We understand that sometimes there will be representatives that You place in our lives that are imperfect, that might make things difficult, that might make us, perhaps, have questions and doubts. But, Lord, we pray, above all, that You might give us the spirit of submission, of surrender, the Spirit of Jesus, that we might be able to have a right relation with these authority figures and ultimately with You. For, Lord, we see, we see where this ends.

 

We see what happened with Lucifer. We see what happened in the wilderness. We see Satan’s end game and that is to rob us of our relationship with You. And so may we be humbly submitted to what You have revealed to us through Your Word. May we obey it. May we work in harmony with our brethren, with out parents, with the governing authorities, with our church, and with other delegated sources of authority in our lives. And may we humbly, humbly lay our lives at Your feet, surrendering our all to you, truly and entirely.

 

Father, please, come into our hearts today. May we seek You with all of our hearts, and may You be especially near to us. May we be faithful to this end, and may we be ready for Your return. This is our prayer today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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