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02. Kingly Power and the Scarlet Letter "A"

Ron Kelly
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Are you subject to authority? Pastor Kelly shares why accountability is so crucial.

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Ron Kelly

Senior Pastor, Village SDA Church, Berrien Springs, Michigan

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  • December 8, 2018
    11:30 AM
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Let’s pray. Lord, our lives are Yours, by creation, by redemption, and by our surrender. Please speak to us now. Help us to hear and obey. May we find joy in that obedience and freedom, empowered, initiated by You. Now, Lord, bless the words that You have given me. I pray, make them live. May they be words from The Word. And gives us hearts, all of us, especially me, to be people of proper submission. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

Ellen White writes in Evangelism, page [65.1], “Fearful perils are before those who bear responsibilities in the cause of God—perils the thought of which make me tremble. But the word comes, ‘My hand is upon the wheel, and I will not allow men to control My work for these last days. My hand is turning the wheel, and My providence will continue to work out the divine plans, irrespective of human inventions.’”

 

“In the great closing work,” she writes, “we shall meet with perplexities that we know not how to deal with, but let us not forget that the three great powers of heaven are working, that a divine hand is on the wheel, and that God will bring His purposes to pass.” I want to encourage you, as we take up our second in the series of “Kingly Power,” that God will take the work into His own hands. In the meantime, we do not need to take it into ours. And that’s what I want to talk about this morning.

 

Now, I’m going to pick on Americans for awhile, partially because I am one, but what I say about Americans will be very likely true of all human beings. So I’m holding in my hand a story from The Associated Press, dated October 23, 1999. It’s a story of a woman by the name of Jan Davis. Jan was a 60-year-old skydiver, and Jan didn’t like a rule. You see, there is something that Americans do in these extreme sports; it’s called BASE jumping, and it’s an acronym, which I’m not going to try to cite from memory. But they find a spot that is connected to Earth but far enough up to where their parachute will open when they jump.

 

And it just so happened that Jan liked to jump from El Capitan in Yosemite. Now the problem was, in the 1980s the park rangers had established a rule in Yosemite that actually allowed BASE jumping during certain times and in certain places. If you wanted to, you could get your adrenaline rush by going to the edge, leaping off the side, and, at a certain point in time, opening your chute. But people broke the rules so many times about when and where to jump that the park said, “You can’t do it here anymore.”

 

So, what is it about people that, as soon as someone tells them they can’t do something, that’s the only thing they want to do? Now, if you can identify with that, I hope the rest of the sermon will speak to you. The sad part of the story is, is that people continued breaking this rule until finally there was a young man who actually jumped, landed successfully, but, while being chased by the rangers, drowned in the Merced River, which was overflowing.

 

Now Jan thought to herself, with four other people, “I’m going to make a protest, and my protest is, I’m going to go up there and jump.” Now, what you need to know, when the jumpers jumped…It’s 3200 feet from the top to the bottom where they would land, but every jumper that was caught forfeited their parachute equipment and were fined 2,000 dollars and were put in jail. Now, going to jail wasn’t a big deal, and I suspect she must have been a fairly well-to-do woman because she had jumped 3,000 times in her life. She was the first woman to jump from Iguazu Falls in South America, if I’m naming the right falls, no, Angel Falls in Venezuela, so she must have been a woman of some means. So the 2,000 dollars wasn’t a big deal, but she did have a fond attachment for her own skydiving equipment.

 

So on that day, as she summited the launching point, she had borrowed somebody else’s equipment. And number one went and took several, I don’t know, three or four minutes to float down. Number two went, took 3 or 4 minutes to float down, expecting to be accosted by…Is that the right word when you’ve broken the rules? How about just apprehended by the rangers. And finally, it was her turn, and she stepped back from the edge and took a run and leaped. Now on the forest floor was her husband Ken who had actually done skydiving work in association with the James Bond movies, and he was photographing it all.

 

And pretty soon the 150 spectators started saying, “Pull the cord. Pull the cord!” I believe it only took about 20 seconds, and never was the cord pulled. Her husband slumped over the camera that he was taking pictures with. So, what had happened? Well, where you pull the chute on her equipment was different than where you pull the chute on her borrowed equipment, and there was no backup chute. Sixty-year-old Jan Davis, protesting a rule, losing her life. There was one more parachutist at the top, and he walked down off the mountain.

 

I need to ask you at the beginning of this message, are you accountable to anybody? Do you know what it means to submit to authority? Or are you the only authority in your life? I think that America is fast approaching the same sentiment that is written in the last chapters of the book of Judges, that, “every man did what was right,” and, by the way, that includes the women, too, “in their own eyes.”

 

We find ourselves in a unique position today as members of a global church that has processed a divisive topic and said as a whole, although not unanimously, that this is how we feel about it. It was processed again by representatives, 309, in Battle Creek in the month of October, “And this is what we’re going to do about it,” because it appears that our formerly held sense of unity in decision-making is no longer at some level the currently held sense of our practice.

 

But the body at large has not come quite to the place where we’re willing to surrender our theology of process and our nobility of person and our sense of collective accountability. Now, whether you like the decision or not is beside the point. We could be talking about any one of a number of things. The actual subject matter over which the division has found its initiation, its genesis, while it may be the issue to some, we have left that issue behind as we have decided that independence of spirit and independent thought is the forum for the day.

 

Now, just in this last week, I’ve had three very interesting things that have happened to me. Item number one is that I had somebody from this faith community, this actual church, send me an email, and in the process of their email they described them working with someone in the Southwest Michigan territory here. And in the process of their dialoguing…They actually were both Seventh-day Adventists. One had worked very high up, if you want to refer to it that way, in the administrative circles of our church.

 

It appears to me from the email that was sent, that somewhere along they way they lost the simplicity of a child’s faith and had a very jaded experience because in the experience between the Village member and this other individual, they happened to pull out of one of their files or off of one of the stacks in their house a picture of our General Conference president wearing a Nazi SS uniform. And the person who provided the cartoon, the caricature, thought it was very funny. But the person that received it did not think it was funny and actually challenged the individual who provided this caricature of leadership. It doesn’t appear that the Village member persuaded the other member, but nonetheless there was a proper engagement that suggested that we ought not to speak evil of our leaders.

 

Do you remember when Paul was being interrogated before the Sanhedrin, and he said, “It’s in all good conscience that I stand before you here today”? And the high priest motioned to someone standing by him to strike him, and he hit him in the mouth? And Paul said, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall for going against the law.” And the man standing next to him said, “Do you speak such about the high priest?” And Paul said, “Oh, I didn’t know it was the high priest.” You see, in the books of the Old Testament, in the Pentateuch, Numbers, I believe, it says, “You shall not speak evil against a ruler.”

 

The second thing that happened to me this week was that I listened to a presentation by one of the groups in our community that like to meet on a semi-regular basis, and the message was entitled, “A Time to Speak Out.” Well, you know I have no problem, in my understanding of the Christian governance, with somebody speaking out. As a matter of fact, I do it every Sabbath, and I’m doing it right now. The problem was, was that the way the dialogue was picture framed was that we were at a Martin Luther moment. And it wasn’t that we were at a Martin Luther moment against the oppression of civil authority or apostate general church, we were at a Martin Luther moment because of some of the leaders of our own church.

 

Now, as soon as you picture frame a disagreement where you’re Martin Luther, what does that make everybody else? I want you to think about it. It’s exceptionally unfair and accusatory. And even if you feel it, you ought to be careful about where you say it for fear that your influence might empower people who aren’t quite so committed to this body of faith.

 

When I think about the elements that are raging inside of our church at this moment, I’m convinced that the devil would like nothing more than to tear this place apart. “Satan is an accuser of the brethren,” Ellen White writes in 1888, “and when he can set the leaven of disaffection to work in human hearts, he is exultant. When he can divide brethren, he has a hellish jubilee. I think if our brethren could see, as I have seen, how much wrong is done in speaking evil of our brethren, there would be an entire change in the way we treat one another. You do not understand yourselves, you misinterpret words and deeds, and you measure them from your own finite standpoint. Your imagination leads you astray. Your feelings, your tongues, which are not sanctified, are employed in a service and a work that is anything but holy and Christlike.”

 

So how many of you want to sponsor a party for the demons and call it a hellish jubilee, providing substance, form, and sustenance courtesy of the Seventh-day Adventists themselves? Sober words. Sober subject matter. When it comes to considering where we are in our society’s experience, we come to a place where truly consumerism and capitalism have found the ascendancy, and everyone is a customer, and nobody is accustomed to being held accountable.

 

You don’t like how something turned out at Walmart or Kohl’s or Meijer, it’s no problem; take it back. It’s always the customer’s way. Although, L.L.Bean in the last year has abandoned its policy of absolute guaranteed returns—Why? Because it appears that our society has become so…so dishonest they are no longer doing business with people of integrity. It’s gone.

 

When it comes to the moments we’re at right now, it appears to me that the church is stuck, waiting for a prophetic voice to point the way. The church is in a position where it seems that even men and women of high rank and office have allowed the roots of bitterness to grow in their heart, and thus they, like the Democrats and the Republicans, are no longer able to talk and pray through their problems, thus we look almost as impotent as the structures of worldly governance.

 

And, by the way, on that note, I want to make sure you understand the difference between representative government like Adventist Church practices it, and political governance. When our president, Elder Micheff, was elected back in September to be our conference president, so many delegates were elected from this constituency to go up there and represent this church. They voted yes or no for a recommendation from the nominating committee. He was overwhelmingly elected. This is good. There is accountability. Leaders hold authority by merit of an appointed term of office. But they do hold authority beyond that.

 

You see, what a leader does in a religious setting that’s different than in a political setting is that a leader in a religious setting receives the affirmation of the body, is prayed over, the laying on of hands, and then is vested with a duty to fulfill the spiritual governance of that conference or that union or that division or that General Conference, our worldwide church, to the best they understand it in connection with other men and women. But what a political leader will never do, or almost never, is go against the voice of the people.

 

But what the church is confused about right now is thinking that the voice of the people is the final authority for the people’s appointed leader. But like in a home, so in the church. The leaders are actually duty-bound to actually exercise divine prerogatives and voices, prophetic voices, of authority to help keep this church on the straight and narrow. And while a political leader feels duty-bound to announce what the largest of the constituents say, a [church] leader is a man or a woman who prays and knows in the end that their first allegiance, as is best they can understand it, is to God. Because sometimes the people you represent actually experience something we call spiritual degeneration, maybe even apostasy.

 

Actually, the people we represent, you represent, I might represent, sometimes go astray, and God holds leaders responsible in a different way. This is why James would say, “Let not many of you think to be teachers,” and he wasn’t thinking “reading, writing, and arithmetic,” “for you will be judged more strictly.” There’s something about the influence of a leader. There is something about the authority of a leader. There is something about the ability to shape the general culture of the body they’re leading that gives a leader a certain responsibility, a certain prerogative, and a certain authority.

 

Right now we are reaping the bitter fruits of a generation of Americans, and not just Americans, maybe two generations, who have not been held accountable by parents, by teachers, or by ministers. You know what Paul said, he said multiple times in his letters to the churches, “You need to walk worthy.” Paul wasn’t confused about what the power of grace could be to live a sanctified life. Paul wasn’t confused about the dynamics of accountability. Paul wasn’t confused about victory in Jesus through the in-dwelling Spirit. Paul would tell us that we ought not to be behaving, as the Scripture was read by our fourth-grade teacher, as ordinary people. The New American Standard says, “as mere men.”

 

In other words, when the universe looks on, they’re looking to see the practical outworking of the Spirit of Christ in His people so they don’t look just like everybody else on the face of the planet. So their culture, their leadership, their governance, their homes, their churches, their schools, are all beautifully, wonderfully different.

 

We’re living in an age in which we are bearing the bitter fruits of not being careful about our theology. We do not believe what the rest of Protestantism believes about conversion. I’ll talk more about this in February when I begin a different series. The rest of Protestantism believes all you have to do is make an acquiescence in verbiage to the name of Jesus, and that’s enough. No moral change is required in the behavior. There is to be no fruits worthy of repentance, which, by the way, is a direct scriptural quote, but John the Baptist warned the people coming to him for repentance that they ought to actually be able to show that they’re profession is matched with a practice.

 

You see, when you baptize a person before they experience some victory in Jesus, especially over egregious sin, soul-destroying, body-destroying sin, you write a fatal loop into the spiritual software of their future walk with God, and they remain perpetually dysfunctional. We actually expect that the people who go down into this watery grave will have tasted and seen that the Lord is good at breaking chains of addiction. This is the right and the prerogative of every new convert, and since we don’t believe that baptism is where you get your salvation, the journey of preparation is simply about digging a nice foundation for a spiritual skyscraper not a shanty box to live in.

 

Yes, we’re living in a strange day. Americans are very much liberty-loving, but we’re coming close to the tipping point, I suspect, where people are going to say, maybe it’s time to start talking about the things that protect civility and society. Ellen White is not backwards at all about the dynamics of proper authority. If you are a dad or a mother, and you are not exercising your authority, God forbid what you will reap in a harvest down the road, and God forbid what all of us will have to live with through your dereliction of duty.

 

It’s not accidental and happenstantial that every other week or so we hear about a young person, usually a boy, who has gone into some school or movie theater or nightclub and started randomly and viciously taking the lives of people. No, these things didn’t come from nowhere. The Scripture says you reap what you sow. And while parents should not take total responsibility for the actions of their adult children for sure, they are to lay a foundation, and it does include accountability, and it does include the proper exercising of authority.

 

Interestingly, writing in the Review and Herald, July 25, [1893] she writes, “To exalt a minister as perfection because he has not displeased any one by reproving errors, not only brings a snare upon the minister, but brings disaster upon the people. He who does not hurt the spiritual self-complacency of the people is almost [deified] by them, while a devoted, faithful servant of God, who lays bare the errors of the church-members, is supposed to be defective, because he does not see what they suppose are their personal merits. He reproves wrongs which really exist, and this is counted an indignity, and his authority and instruction are cast aside and trodden under foot.”

 

Take your Bibles this morning and open them up to the book of Numbers, Numbers, chapter 12.

 

So I never got around to telling you the third thing that happened to me this week. I was visiting with a minister in this community and sharing with them what God had laid on my heart to present. And when it was all said and done, the person said they agreed with me. At least they agreed with me generally, but they said, “I am not too sure about some of the maneuverings that have been used to arrive at present administrative positions,” and he was speaking to several lines up the authority chain in the Adventist Church.

 

Now I want to tell you something. The word “maneuverings” is a pejorative word; that means it is dripping with negative overtones. If somebody accused me of “maneuvering,” then I’m starting to look like a slick operator. And, by the way, I’d like to know, dad, when your child accuses you of having kingly authority, how are you going to defend yourself? I’d like to know, principal, when your student accuses of having kingly authority, how are you going to defend yourself?

 

What’s going on in this church right now is that we have lowered ourselves down to the ordinary activities of unregenerate people, and in the process the devil’s working very hard to make sure that no authority is exercised so that we can have total chaos, and he can come in with his grand scheme to “save” the world, which will include a new focus on religion.

 

Numbers, chapter 12, Miriam wasn’t sure about the maneuvering at the very top either. It says in verse 1, “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman,” that’s Zipporah. She’s actually a Midianite, but she’s darker-skinned, Miriam doesn’t like her, and Miriam doesn’t like the new calculus for administration in the camp. It was, “The Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?’” Now, I’d like to know astute you are this morning. What does that sentiment suggest? What kind of emotions and suspicions are written into that sentence? “‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ Has He not spoken through us as well?’” And the Scripture has this very short little commentary, “And the Lord heard it.”

 

Now I want you to know something. If there was anybody in the camp who would know about Moses’ maneuverings, it was his big sister and his big brother. And it can be a little hard to overcome that place, but God had clearly spoken to Moses. They had the inside track. But I want to remind you, friends, that Jesus Himself said, “By every word we speak, we will be justified, and by every word we speak, we will be condemned.”

 

Miriam didn’t like the fact that Jethro was in the camp, and Moses was getting advice from someone else. Her insecurities rose up. Her jealousies rose up. Speaking in Patriarchs and Prophets, the author writes, “A fear that his,” that’s Jethro’s, “influence with the great leader exceeded theirs.” She goes on to write that, “Aaron had failed when entrusted with responsibility, giving evidence of the weakness of his character,” We’re talking about the golden calf, “by his base compliance in the matter of the idolatrous worship at Sinai. But Miriam and Aaron,” listen to this next phrase, “blinded by jealousy and ambition, lost sight of this.”

 

The question I want to ask is, do you think Miriam and Aaron knew they were blinded? And do you think anybody else who might get their ideas twisted about someone who holds authority, or if there are any other situations, maybe even in the twenty-first century, where somebody might become blinded by jealousy and ambition and not know that they are blinded? If ever there was an age for humility inside our interactions inside the church, it’s today. “Had Aaron stood up firmly for the right, he might have checked the evil,” talking about Miriam and her gossip; “but instead of showing Miriam the sinfulness of her conduct, he sympathized with her, listened to her words of complaint, and thus came to share her jealousy.”

 

So, what is it about this intervention that seems to require an almost divine encounter in the now? Why does God on His celestial throne…Why does God come down and put a rapid stop to this? Well, I encourage you this Sabbath afternoon to read chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16, and what you’ll see is, is that even with this kind of divine imperative against criticizing Moses, they still have one chapter after another of rebellion. There is Korah, Dathan and Abiram. After Korah, Dathan and Abiram are gone, they’re all sad about what they did, and the next day they’re blaming Moses for taking out these godly men.

 

“Moses, you take too much upon yourself.” I want to assure you today, any leader who accepts in the name of Christ to lead a religious organization for a modest amount of money is doing it for—hopefully most of the times—the right reasons. And while there are some who enter in for self-aggrandizement and personal ambition, God has placed accountability in the system. It’s for you, it’s for me, it’s for anybody above or anybody else we serve.

 

So, God comes down, communicates His discontent. He is angry because He knows souls will be destroyed in eternity for the influence of these leaders. He knows there will be people missing in Heaven because the natural heart is inclined to this kind of behavior, and when you see it done by those for whom God’s favor has been upon, and maybe hands even laid upon, it legitimates that which needs no encouragement and no fertilization.

 

God tells Miriam, “If your father had but spit in your face, you’d be unclean seven days.” “Put her outside of the camp.” Now, for those of us that are into the feeling mode, that doesn’t seem particularly nice. But if you understood that peoples’ salvation was weighing in the balance, that might have been, and actually was, the nicest thing that could have been done to check a disease which is cancerous to the soul and destructive to eternal hope.

 

“This manifestation of the Lord’s displeasure,” writing in Patriarchs and Prophets, “was designed to be a warning to all Israel, to check the growing spirit of discontent and insubordination. If Miriam’s envy and [dissatisfaction] had not been signally rebuked, it would have resulted in great evil…The judgment visited upon Miriam should be a rebuke to all who yield to jealousy, and murmur against those upon whom God lays the burden of His work.”

 

Now, take your Bible and turn to the book of 1 Timothy, 1 Timothy, chapter 4, verse 1, and I want you to see that we are warned that in the end of the age, the devil will come with a deceptive power greater to what those before us have experienced. First Timothy, chapter 4, looking at verse 1, “The Spirit explicitly,” or expressly, “says…” Now, you have to remember, this will be Paul’s last written portion of the Scriptures. Well, actually, book two will be, but his letters to Timothy are the end. It’s about over. He’s going to die. And he wants the young preacher to understand something. “The Spirit explicitly,” or expressly, “says that in latter times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and to doctrines of demons.” Now, he goes on to describe a situation where a religious institution will rise up and say that you shouldn’t marry, and you can’t eat certain foods. Don’t be confused. Those certain foods that can’t be eaten are foods that God has legitimately said could.

 

But aside from the main apostasy that’s written there in chapter 4, there is clearly an understanding that we’re dealing with a mastermind whose ability to deceive, to blind, is beyond anything we understand. And what I want you to see is that in the Last Days—and this phraseology in the Greek is unique in the New Testament to this one place—there will be deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. And I don’t know of anything that’s any more deceitful than the human heart that worships its own ideas. We are living in an age like, during the first Advent of Jesus, where their idols are no longer carved out with hands. The idols of Christ’s day and the worship of those idols was the worship of pride of opinion.

 

So I’m asking you today, can you do justly in the name of Christ, walk humbly in the name of Christ, and love mercy? Or is your opinion the only opinion? Could you be wrong even about you, since we read earlier that we don’t even understand ourselves.

 

Now, turn over to 1 John, chapter 4, a little bitty book towards the back of the Bible, 1 John, chapter 4. First John, chapter 4, beginning with verse 1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but” (do what, friends?) “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have come out into the world.” So let’s do our own little test, could we do that?

 

Turn back to the book of Luke, chapter 9, and let’s do a test right out of the Bible. This will be a practice. Luke, chapter 9, we’ll do our own little practice test. I’ll set the picture. Jesus is traversing through Samaria. He’s probably on His way to a feast. The Samaritans don’t like the Jews, and when they go into a town to make arrangements for Him, it doesn’t work out. Verse 52, “He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans,” Luke 9:52, “to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume these people?’” Good spirit or bad spirit? Not too hard to figure out, is it?

 

And, by the way, that word for “spirit” in the New Testament is the word “pneuma.” You all came to church today riding in cars that had pneumatic tires. There was air in them. In other words, the breath of God that brings life. And so, Jesus actually says, in verse 55, “He turned and rebuked them, and He said, ‘You don’t know what kind of spirit you are of.’”

 

So I want to play for a little bit with this word “pneuma,” or “breath.” I want to test the spirits. So let’s do something unpleasant. I’d like for you to think of that person. I don’t want you to ever name the person; I don’t want you to talk about the person this Sabbath afternoon. But I’d like for you to name that one person in your life that, every time you see them, you’d really rather they not breathe on you because they have chronic halitosis. Is there anybody in your world, in your circle, that you know this is a problem with? I’m not talking about when somebody eats too much Italian food, and the garlic was a little too heavy. I’m talking about people that it seems for some reason, no matter how much they brush their teeth or chew on gum, they’ve got something wrong with the hygiene in their body somewhere, and they have bad breath.

 

You know, I want to make sure you understand something. James puts it this way, “A fresh well does not produce brackish water.” Have you ever read that in the book of James? It’s not that hard to test the spirits. As I said in the first service, some people’s Christian experience is flavored by chewing on other church members or the preacher, and it ought not to be so. I can assure you that the Pharisees had theological orthodoxy; that meant that they had the tenants right. Jesus would even say, “Do as they say, just don’t do as they do,” because the Pharisees had a bad spirit. They had “bad breath.”

 

So, what do we want for our collective church? I mean, it’s interesting that the Bible describes, you know, Jesus breathing on them and them receiving the Spirit. What do you want? And what are you giving other people? And what do we have collectively and corporately? How are we relating to each other, and what kind of honor are we paying to those who pick up the, so often, unappreciated and unrecognized sacrifices of trying to make something go?

 

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King [Jr.], on the Mall in Washington, D.C., said, “There is something that I must say to my people, who [stand] on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” And could the people say Amen? [Audience: Amen.] We must rise above the ordinariness of regular human interacting. King went on to say, “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”

 

And, by the way, friends, Moses was kept out of the Promised Land, too, wasn’t he? Do you know why? “Oh,” you say, “well, of course, Pastor, he struck the rock when he should have talked to it.” Yes, that’s exactly right, but here’s now Numbers 27 describes it, “[The Lord said to Moses], ‘Go up into the mount and see the land that I’m going to give you.’” And He tells them why he’s not going in, “For in the wilderness of Sin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command.”

 

So let’s come back to our original question: Are you accountable to anybody? Or do you chafe when somebody holds you to a test of spiritual integrity? When my wife and I were married in the early days, when we had no money and we owed lots of bills, we had that 50-dollar-a-month spending arrangement. I’d tell people that my wife never felt so poor after we got married, and I never felt so rich. So consequentially you know who the spender was, and you know who the saver was. Now, what we’ve discovered through the years is that when I find those shelves, and they’re full of 75-percent off, I might buy a thousand rolls of toilet paper. Finding a place to put it might be a problem.

 

What we discovered was, was that for me, buying created a degree of security. For her, it was saving. But you know, she also learned something about me, and that is that when I got on the internet, and I started looking at motorized vehicles, whether they had two wheels or four, she noticed that the longer I looked the more likely it was that I was going to want to buy. It was somewhat of a principled violation of our agreement, and I hated it. Oh, I hated it. When I’d be sitting there looking at my next dream vehicle, and she’d walk up behind me and look over my shoulder to see what I was looking at.

 

Can anybody hold you accountable? Do you resist, or even worse, resent authority? Ellen White says, “You cannot afford to allow any un-Christlike spirit to embitter your spirit against your brethren.”

 

When we look at the Bible, we find that Paul charges Timothy to be a good soldier. When we read the Spirit of Prophecy, we find Ellen White using terms like “generals” and “captains.” When we sing in our hymnbooks, we sing “Stand Like the Brave,” and “Like a Mighty Army Moves the Church of God.” All of those embody a mentality of structure, discipline, and authority with accountability. But it appears, for all the metaphors of military battle in Scripture and song, there is a unique phenomenon that is on Adventism right now, and it is this: That it appears for the Western culture, Adventism is not in a battle except with itself. And that, my friends, Jesus said will never work because a house divided cannot stand.

 

Paul commanded the young pastors to reject a factious man. Paul directed that they were to speak and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise them, Titus, chapter 2:15. Paul understood that authority rightly exercised was for the safeguard of the body. And that, my friends, is still what authority properly conducted should do. It is not authority that turns your kids away from Jesus, it is authority without affection. It is not authority that is a problem, it is an overreach of authority.

 

And this morning, what God has put on my heart to bring to you is this: That in a society that resists authority and hates accountability, God’s church will submit to the Word, to each other in the proper way, and to those God has placed as leaders among them. And that is not a subject of mindlessness and not a subjection or submission of mindlessness, that is a mutual submission to a belief and a commitment to love and pray and serve each other and to trust in the God of Heaven.

 

Paul wrote to Onesimus and said, “I could command you, but I’m asking you.” So I want to leave you with these three things from the book of Hebrews, Hebrews, chapter 13. This is how Paul ends his book, and, yes, I do believe he wrote it. Three times, for some reason, when we come down to the end of the book, he mentions leaders. Verse 7, “Remember those who [led] you, who spoke the word of God to you.” Your versions may say “rule over you,” if you’ve got a New King James Version or some others. “Considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

 

Paul gets it. We should get it. There’s something about excellent leadership that is worthy of emulation. It ought to be repeated. It ought to be done. We ought to be the best group of people in America, raising the most balanced leaders who know how to serve with all their heart and exercise authority with kindness and compassion but with resolve. Seventh-day Adventist homes ought to be structured in such a way that the children know how to obey, but respect is paid to each other, and that order is maintained. Our schools and our churches should be the same, and nothing could be changed as we moved up through the ranks from conferences to unions to divisions or our General Conference. That’s verse 7.

 

Verse 17, He says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

 

And then in the second to the last line, he says in verse 24, “Greet all of your leaders.” Some of you may be have never had the experience of actually having to stand in somebody’s way, to be unappreciated and misunderstood, maybe for actual good causes, and you’ve walked into a room, and you can feel the ice. How many times I’ve walked up to people that I know don’t appreciate who I am as a person or what I’m doing for the church and held out my hand to them, acting like it was the easiest thing in the world for me to do, I can’t count, but that is what we have to do because if you lead with sanctified reason, your feelings will eventually come along behind you and get into line.

 

We don’t have to agree theologically on everything, but I’ll tell you one thing theologically we have to agree on, that the prayer of Jesus to press together is a mandate, that the prayer of Jesus to be one like the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit is a directive; it’s a command. I bet it takes work. And that we need to let the love of Jesus shine in our hearts.

 

In 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verse [5], this is what Paul wrote to him (make sure you don’t lose this, because if you lose this, you’ve lost it all), he says, “The purpose of the commandment,” the purpose of the commandment. I’m going to distill this book down into three sentiments. First Timothy, chapter 1, verse [5], “The purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart.” If you lose that, you’ve lost it all. Paul writes in Colossians, chapter 3, “Love is the bond of perfection.” “Above all…put on the bond of perfection,” because it’s going to be strange in this church family. It’s going to be stretched. It might get close to breaking, but love is the bond of perfection. It won’t break down.

 

Number two: A good conscience. Sometimes your conscience tells you, “You shouldn’t have said that.” Sometimes your conscience tells you, “You shouldn’t be thinking that.” Sometimes your conscience says, “You did the right thing, let it be.” You lose the ability for your conscience to be plucked by the hand of God, and you might as well be on your own. You’ve started the road towards the unpardonable sin.

 

And the last thing Paul writes to Timothy, “Love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned.” It’s not fake; it’s real. And I want to tell you, when you’ve got a childlike faith in God, you might be a David being hunted by a Saul, but you know what? You can still write songs in the night, and people will be repeating them, singing them and praying them two-and-a-half millennia later.

 

So where are we at, friends? How’s your prayer life? Are you praying for your leaders? Are you praying for your kids’ teachers? Are you praying for your kids’ principle? Are you praying for the people who give watch over your souls? Yes, Paul ends his book saying, “Greet the leaders,” because sometimes it’s hard for them, the emotional price tag they pay to be a leader is high. So just acknowledge them when they come into the room. Just shake their hand. And that will do something for them.

 

We’ve been called to much more than that. Yes, the new scarlet letter in America is authority. If you actually try to exercise it, you could be branded as attempting to overreach and have kingly power. I’m appealing to you today, in the name of Christ, if you’re a parent, you need to properly exercise your authority. And let us pray for every other person, “from the parents to the presidents,” to quote Edwin Friedman in his book, A Failure of Nerve, that everyone here would understand there is a journey of stewardship for some, and it involves an exercise of authority. It comes from Christ, and without exercising it, we will be at a tremendous loss of quality of family life.

 

Jesus Himself submitted to the journey His Father picked out for Him. He was a Man with true authority. He spoke with authority. His disciples were recognized because they spoke with authority, too (Acts 4:13). But He laid it all down in the name of His Father’s direction, trusting that the outcome, even though He would suffer, and you may suffer, too, but the outcome in the end would be to bring many sons and daughters to glory. Hallelujah.

 

May we walk in His way. May we show a completely different, beautiful and noble conduct of governance in our homes and our houses of worship, and may the world take note that we’re not acting like mere men. We’re not behaving like ordinary people. We have the presence of Jesus in the conduct, the governance, the discipline, and the direction of this church. Amen.

 

Father, the battle in Heaven with the fallen Lucifer was over the lines of authority, who held what properly in God-ordained constituted prerogatives and power. That battle still rages, Lord, in every human heart. We, with the fallen nature, naturally don’t want to think that we’re wrong or have somebody suggest that we ought to examine ourselves, action and motive and thought. I’m praying, Lord, for enough humility to pray for each other, for enough humility to believe the best about each other or for enough humility to come to You and explain that that’s not the case, and we need a divine treatment of the heart.

 

Give us enough humility, Lord, when it’s not quite right, and to follow You in the making of it right. If it means a dialogue, an uncomfortable, unnatural appointment, may we do it, if it means confronting our own negative cycles of thought born of insecurity or jealousy or pride of opinion. I’m praying, Lord, bless us in this local church, and bless us up through the ranks of Adventist leadership so that to the world we are not divided, but we are one in hope and doctrine and one in charity. May we be responsible and honest enough to own our own feelings and know when they’re right and wrong and bring them to You to be made right. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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