Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jesus and Religious Authority

During his Ministry, although Jesus taught controversially, and openly drew attention to the incorrect religious attitudes which prevailed, he subjected himself to the authority of the leaders of his time, both religious and political. He had power as the Son of God, yet he still humbled himself to the law and traditions he lived under.

Paul taught the new church regarding respect for governing authorities.

Romans 13:1,2 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Jesus was a prime example of this, and the governing authorities where instrumental in the redemptive plan and ultimate crucifixion. During his ministry Jesus also specifically taught respect for the ruling authorities when he instructed that it was right to pay taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:25).

Likewise Jesus taught respect for the religious authorities also. He taught in the temple within the existing structure, and before he pronounced his woes in Matthew’s gospel he specifically said;

Matthew 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

We must respect the religious authorities, and stop our interdenominational bickering.

Lets look at the church today. Shouldn’t the same principles apply to those who have been appointed as priests, pastors and ministers of various denominations? They are governing authorities for our churches, yet sometimes we judge them so harshly. Paul speaks of non-Christian governments as being established by God. How much more than religious leadership?

We are quick to criticise other churches, and even accuse some of being demonic. This is harsh. This is what the Pharisees did to Jesus.

Matthew 12:22-27 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.

Isn’t this what we do when we accuse people of being associated to the devil? When we call a religion which claims to follow Jesus as being false or driven by evil spirits? Further on in this scripture Jesus says “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”(verse 30).

It is also clear from these scriptures that the Pharisees themselves drove out demons, and the disciples got upset because others where using Jesus’ name to drive out demons who they did not consider to be one of them.

Mark 9:38-41“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
We have to stop bickering between different traditions and styles of worship. If the house of Satan in this object lesson would not stand, then if our own house is divided, that is the house of Christ, then what will become of us? I have all too often heard people speak of their own confusion in their journey of faith because each different church claims to have got it right, and is critical of other churches.

I have been witness to another phenomenon also. I have seen God use what many would say were cults, or false religions to draw a person near to him. I have witnesses genuine conversion in churches others would have criticised for their radical practices. I have seen that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

Why can't Christians get along?

I was sitting in church one day and from my heart I cried out to God, “What do you want me to tell them”. Deep in my spirit the Holy Spirit resounded “Tell them to stop fighting”.

Most people have an issue that they are passionate about because of the way they first discovered the reality of Jesus. Whether it was the method of teaching they were listening to, or revelation they received at the point of conversion. That the different denominations would bury the hatchet and get along is one of my passions.

You see, when God revealed himself to me he showed me something. At the time, like so many people I decided that it was too difficult to search for answers to the questions of whether or not there was a God, or if there was what he required from, because there were so many different religions and churches who all thought they were right.

What I believe God showed me was that he didn’t give a hoot about all the traditional practices in the various denominations. It was like superfluous rubbish and he saw straight to the heart of man. Like Paul says;

Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

Now this being my passion, and something I was quick to sprout off at the mouth about, I was pushed to follow this conviction when I had to start attending a Catholic church. If you’re a Catholic, don’t worry I am not going to bag you out; I have noticed it is the favourite church to bag.  After attending a Catholic church for some time now, I must say I have been truly blessed by my time there.

You see we were moving to a small country town, and there were three choices of church, Catholic, Presbyterian and Anglican. Now my type of church would be one with loud music and dancing in the aisles, and none of the above was going to offer this. My husband, being brought up in a Catholic church and was keen to attend there.

I prayed, and I prayed hard. Surely there must be a different way. I was happy to tell everyone about how churches should get along, but this was too much, pushing me to actually attend a church I wasn’t used to made it personal. Growing up I was taught that the Catholic church was like the beast in Revelation.

I started studying all the doctrines of the Catholic church to try to get my head around it all. The more I looked, the more I saw that it was all bible based, and had in fact reformed somewhat to being quite in line with most other main stream denominations.

There was one thing I couldn’t get though, and that was the Mary thing. It has to be the biggest criticism of the Catholic faith. As I combed the Catholic website for some sort of peace on this issue God spoke to me, as always from the depths of my sole clear as I have ever heard him “what’s it to you if I took my Mother up before she died?”

I pulled my head in after that.
I have seen glimpses of the traditions that are criticised, but mostly I hear Jesus preached and the word of God read. Leave interdenominational bickering alone, and lets start loving one another, all of us.

Setting aside Human Wisdom

Many churches, no matter how liberal are constantly falling into the trap of using human wisdom instead of God’s wisdom. Even those that call themselves ‘spirit led’, start to follow the knowledge they attain.  Paul said “We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.”(1 Cor 8:1-3)

This human knowledge has become the basis for many of our church infrastructures. The measure of leadership usually entails some form of academic achievement in ministry. The denominations usually have their preferred degrees or diplomas for the position they wish someone to fill. I am not saying all of this is bad, but is it not a worldly way?

What can be said of the congregations, how would they determine right from wrong amongst the controversies.

Human argument, human tradition. It is time to break free and truly follow the Spirit of Christ.

This is what the first apostles did. They taught revelation from the spirit;

“ This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” (1 Cor2:13)

There is a growing movement of teachers who speak from revelation from the Spirit. They are often opposed by those who hold to their theology from text books and tried and tested tradition, almost in fear of losing control. This is God though, this is how He works.

Arguments and controversies produce divisiveness in the body of Christ, yet the Spirit will give us wisdom and keep us focused on the most important thing.... LOVE.

My prayer for the Church (that is the body of those who believe in Jesus not the organisations) is Paul’s prayer in Eph 3:26-29;

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”