Hebrews 13:17 & Authority Issues

If one has authority issues they have God’s issues. God has ordained various kinds of authority structures in His creation.

Man over the earth – Genesis 1:26-28
Husband over his wife – Ephesians 4:22-24
Parents over children – Ephesians 6:1-3
Government over citizens – Romans 13:1-3

Here we see God’s authority structure for the church. The congregation is to submit to and obey its leadership. Throughout scripture there are a variety of terms used to refer to the same office that these leaders occupy. Primarily and most often they are designated elders. They are also referred to as overseers, and surprisingly to some, they are least often called pastors. These are different words to describe the same office. It is God who calls these overseers and makes them shepherds of His flock (see Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians elders in Acts 20:28). Pastors are His gift to His church for their edification (Ephesians 4:11-12). When the church fails to follow godly, Biblically faithful leadership, she does so to her own detriment and sins gravely.

Rebellion against godly pastors, is then, rebellion against God. But it is worse than just saying that God had a bad idea. Authority isn’t just an idea God has, it is who He is. He can delegate authority because He has all authority. He is Lord, He is King, He is the supreme authority.

Further, within the Trinity we see that though they are all equal in essence and equally God they have different roles. The Father sends the Son, and the Father and the Son send the Spirit. God is the head of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3). Authority and submission do not then always necessarily imply that one party is of greater value, dignity, and worth than the other, but they may simply mean that the parties involved have different roles. God the Father and God the Son are equal in worth, but they have different roles. Likewise husband and wife are equal in worth, but they have different roles.

However, God’s authority over us is of a different kind all together. We are not equal to God in any way. Having loved the serpent’s lie and desiring to be God ourselves, we hate His authority. So rebellion against any authority demonstrates our attitude toward the Sovereign God who orders all things. In hating authority structures, especially those of the church, we don’t simply tell God that He had a stupid idea, but that His very being is stupid. This blasphemy is seen to be amplified in the church for Godly pastors seek to lead God’s sheep not according to their preferences, but according to God’s precepts, that is, God’s Holy Word. The faithful under shepherd’s delight isn’t that you are following him, but that you are following the Chief Shepherd (3 John 4). And submission to the King’s yoke is light and easy. It is where we find rest. Under His rule, we all find peace.

Hebrews 13:20-25 & A Gracious Storm

Monday - Friday

If you haven’t been in Tulsa the weekly forecast for the past two weeks is illustrated by the single picture above.  I would love to visit Seattle and visit Mars Hill Church.  I was curious about the weather as well, now I think I know what it’s like.  When I walked out yesterday afternoon I was struck by something alien.  What is this strange warmth tickling my skin?   What are these colors?  Why is quiet peace after the storm somehow more quite than the peace that preceded it?  How is it that the bird’s songs seem sweeter?  Do they sense the same things I do?

Hebrews is a category five hurricane for your soul.  As it sweeps by it devastates the landscape.  False hopes, strengths, and idols are decimated.  False professors flee before it.  Only those left tethered to the one true Anchor are left, and they are better for it.

I have found some of the deepest most abiding comfort in this precious book.  It is true comfort.  It is not built on the illusory; it is anchored in the deepest of realities, God Himself.  I am so glad that peace does not come quickly or easily in this book.  I am thankful for the storm and all it brought down.  The storm was a mercy.

The same storm that wrecked my false securities also stirred the seas of God’s grace and peace and now they come crashing thunderously upon me.  They are deep waves, mighty waves, surging waves.  The Son is brighter now.  Songs of praise spring forth spontaneously.  The peace is deafening.  Grace is crashing in.

Hebrews 13:17-19 & Treating Authority Like Bad Socks

When some things are abused you throw them away. Toys and socks work that way. I am in dire need of some new socks right now.  A couple of pairs have holes in the heel and many of them have holes which my long toe (my long toe is not my big toe) loves to play peek-a-boo out of.  My big toenail grows radically more than my other toe nails.  Apparently I don’t clip it often enough and then cuts though my socks? My toenail neglect is sock abuse.

Anyway, just because socks are abused you don’t find people running around saying that socks are inherently evil or faulty. You may throw a pair of socks away, but not socks altogether. Authority can be, and is often abused, but that is no reason to throw it out. In our society sex is equally abused, why aren’t we so passionate to ban sex?  Toys are abused by children, should we ban toys?

God gives leaders to his church. All their authority is a derived authority, not intrinsic to themselves. Obey and submit to them for your own souls.  Find elders who are faithful to God’s Word and then be faithful to those elders. Put yourself in a position where your relationship to your elder will be a reflection of your relationship to God.

If you have authority issues with your elder most of the time I would advise one of two actions:

  1. Repent.  If you believe your elder is faithful to the Word of God, your issues with him are issues with God.
  2. Move.  If your elder is not faithful to God’s word find one who is and for the benefit of your soul and his joy in ministry submit to him in the Lord.

Hebrews 13:7-16 & Vintage vs. Novel

Vintage does not mean dead, novel does.  Coca-Cola is classic, it is vintage; that is it is old, but has enduring value.  It has not aged.  Crystal Pepsi was novel and it died.  Novel often means faddish.

Jesus is vintage.  He is ancient, eternal, and immutable.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  This does not limit our exploration of the divine; rather it speaks to the infiniteness of that which is explored.  What must the magnitude of Jesus’ glory be if he is immutable, yet never monotonous or boring?

The dead teachers of the past heralded this Jesus (Hebrews 13:7).  In contrast the false teachers so perverted and distorted Him that their teaching was strange, and diverse (Hebrews 13:9).

The vintage Jesus will live on and prevail, for He is the living one.  The pseudo-novel Jesus will die, for He does not exist.

Spiritually, regarding Jesus, I hope to see you all driving a red ’52 Chevy rather than a modern hybrid with GPS, DVD player, and seat warmers.  Don’t fall prey to the new – it is faddish, it will die, and you will find the quality exceptionally less.

Hebrews 13:1-6 & Orthodoxy to Orthopraxy

Don’t divorce the ethics of Hebrews 13:1-6 from the theology that has preceded it.  Orthodoxy fuels orthopraxy.  Orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy.  If my actions are not done in faith, they are sin (Romans 14:23).  Belief in the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ and love for our brother come to us as a singular command (1 John 3:23).  I can gauge if I truly get doctrine by looking for the practical fruit of love for my brothers and hospitality toward strangers.  I can know if I have the proper motivations in loving my fellow man by seeking out the theological underpinnings that motivate it.

* * *

I am extremely romantic one night.  I have sent her away for a spa treatment all day (she loves the spa).  Surprisingly I pick her up at the spa with a gift she has been hinting at (no flowers, she hates it when I buy flowers).  I take her to her favorite restaurant, she can tell all my attention is on her, I have eyes for no other, no one else exists.  We go for a walk in the park afterwards.  Everything is perfect… I am saying the most poetic of compliments.  I am sincere, I am in love, yet she is repulsed.  Whenever I begin talk of her naturally curly hair (it’s straight), and her blue eyes (they are brown) the evening changes its hue.  All my right doing, however sincere, has been undone by wrong knowing.  When I call my precious Bethany by a foreign name, the name of an ex, all is lost.  Light has turned to darkness.

Orthopraxy is essential.  So is the orthodoxy it must flow from (Hebrews 11:6).

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.  – A.W. Tozer

Hebrews 12:18-29 & …Huh?

You reach for the porcelain collectible for the third time, sure you’ve been warned, but you have called her bluff up to this point.  She is speaking, telling you not to, but you know she hasn’t quite reached that tone yet.  You know that tone that says a beating is imminent.

Have we grown up any?  Do we respond to the gospel with a “…huh?”  Not an inquisitive huh, but a non-interested huh.

In our text we are told that we must listen, because God will speak.  The speaking that God is doing now is different from the speaking that He will do then.  If you are privileged to hear the gospel of Jesus, the revelation of the Son, by the Son (Hebrews 1:1-3), God is speaking to you.  It is the greatest good news in the world; He is speaking to you kindly.  His speaking then, when all is shaken will be different. 

Do not listen to the repeated offers of the gospel, in which God as it were lays the key to His heavenly city before you, do not listen to them in the same way you listen to your mother’s threats.  To respond casually or flippantly to this gospel, is to call more than Mt. Sinai down upon your head.  Every time the gospel is preached you are either softened or hardened.  As the Puritans said, “the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay.”  Perhaps God’s judgment upon you for a habitual pattern of shirking the gospel is to expose you to more of it, such that your quilt is increased.  Ease and comfort in sin is the scariest state to find oneself in.  We see this kind of terrifying judgment in Romans 1:18-32.

Every time God’s word is preached the gospel should be preached.  Therefore every time God’s word is preached there should be a serious and solemn examination of our hearts.  Are we listening?  Remember the Pharisees heard and taught the Scriptures every Sabbath, yet they were completely ignorant of Jesus.

Jesus did not mute the holiness and righteousness of God that speaks in wrath against our sin.  No rather God’s testimony against sin was amplified as Jesus hung on the cross in our stead.  If you stand outside of Christ this wrath burns against you still.  If you spurn the blood of Jesus, it burns against you more (Hebrews 2:1-4; 10:28-29)

As wise old Uncle Ben said to Peter, “with great power comes great responsibility”.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  With greater revelation, greater glory, greater power comes greater responsibility on our part.

“Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

“For our God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:3-17 & A Prayer

Father,

            Holy and loving,

 

Grant us in our consideration of your courageous Son,

            Sustaining grace to realize that the hostile hand of sinners,

            Is also Your helpful hand of discipline.

 

May we not seek the false remedy of alleviating our suffering by attenuating Your sovereignty.

            May we agonize, struggle, and bleed to keep this faith.

            May Your words come to our minds and hearts as light in dark times.

                        Grant us a sanctified memory, so that we may not forget Your words.

 

Teach us to esteem, value, even treasure Your discipline as it cries out to us that we are:

            Loved,

            Received,

            Delighted in,

            Not a bastard.

 

May we know that Your discipline does not come to us as a penalty, but for our purity.

            We are corrected,

            We are prevented,

            And we are educated,

            But the wrath and penalty due for our sins has been born, for hell hung on the cross in our stead.

 

May we be infected with a childlike awe to look just like our Daddy,

            And may that desire make the bitter medicine of discipline sweet to our souls,

            The unpleasant bud of pain, tolerated in hopes of the beautiful bloom of:

                        Your holiness,

                        And the peaceful fruit of righteousness

 

May the truth of Your loving, fatherly, perfect discipline propel us to run, strive, and encourage one another.

            We move in hope, only because we know You are moving.

 

Father,

            Holy and loving,

 

We plead this with earnest tears, for:

            The consequences are so severe if we respond with bitterness to your loving discipline.

            Our ecstasy is the vision of You, in all Your glory.

            Without holiness we will not see this, it is the stamp of our sonship.

            God put this stamp on our souls.

 

May we not like Esau count corn flakes more than the Christ of the Cross and all He purchased for us.

 

In the name of Your perfect Son, Jesus, 

            I, Your lesser son, adopted and unworthy, pray, amen.

Hebrews 12:1-3 & From Moons to The Eternal-Supernova

We orbit the illuminated moons of Hebrews 11:4-40 (for five weeks we have orbited!) only to be thrust toward The Eternal-Supernova Son.

Hebrews 11:32-40 & We Are the Lab Rats

We are the lab rats.  You know the cruel little experiment where if a rat fails to behave a specific way, say pushing a blue button instead of a red one he gets his food, but he gets shocked as well?  He keeps choosing option B over A, why?  “Why won’t he conform?”  “We will give you everything you desire if you just behave as we wish,” says the diabolical scientist that lives in his mother’s garage.  We are those rats.  To the world we are fools, we refuse their offers and are shocked, but if they had but tasted Jesus they would know our behavior the most logical of actions.  Our risk glorifies the Bread of Life, He is worth it.

I’m afraid of reading Hebrews 11:23-40 lightly, the same way that Philippians 4:13 is glibly quoted with no concern for the context.  Consider two scenarios:

Christian # 1 He lives in the States.  He has a great job and makes a sizeable income.  He attends church regularly and tithes.  He has never really suffered.  He has accomplished much.  He is easily deemed “successful” by all his friends.  They talk about how he is so blessed.  Is he?  He is materialistic and consumed with his image.  Always the best – the best clothes, the best car, the best TV.  He isn’t super extravagant, nor living above his means; he is just wanting to invest in good quality he will tell you – you know, being a good steward and all.   And yes, of course, he gives all the glory to God!

Christian # 2 Lives in a hostile Muslim country.  He is despised, hated, persecuted.  He has reaped hardly any fruit.  He barely exists day to day.  It is a task just to buy or find food.  Even though he receives funds from oversees they don’t always make it to him.  And having cash is no guarantee that it will be accepted.  He has little in this world.  Ultimately his wife and child are taken.  Is he cursed?

Who is victorious?  Consider their purposes.  If the ultimate goal is to glorify God as the supreme glory and joy of the universe, who is successful?  Who has treasured Christ above all things and who has “treasured” Christ as a means to things.  As Lewis said, He will not be used as a road.  Certainly Jesus is the road, the only road, but where is He taking us?  Not to rusty things, but to a glorious Father.  He is both the means and the end.  Who has glorified Him as such?

Suffering does not equal defeat.  Often, very often it is the means to victory.

Make like a lab rat, it’s the logical thing to do.  There is risk, the electricity is real, but the Bread of Life is all satisfying.

Hebrews 11:29-30 & A Missionary, A Reformer, and A Murderer

By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.   – Hebrews 11:29

When John Paton went to the New Hebrides Islands they had already killed and eaten two missionaries.  On the Island of Tanna where Paton would first minister they had driven previous missionaries off in fear.  His wife and son would die of fever in a year.  He would remain on this Island for 4 more years despite numerous and consistent death threats.  They would come to him saying “Missi [short for missionary], our fathers loved and worshipped whom you call the Devil, the Evil Spirit; and we are determined to do the same… Now, our people are determined to kill you, if you do not leave this island; for you are changing our customs and destroying our worship, and we hate the Jehovah Worship.”

He would argue with them, and tell them that if they did Jehovah would be angry with them.  He would warn them that if they killed him a British Man of War would come by and attack them, and that the traders would no longer visit them.  After such an encounter they would ease of a little for a short time.  Finally the situation grew so threatening that he had to leave.

By faith he experienced deliverance many times, and by faith he suffered the loss of wife and child.  Our faith does not mean deliverance from every pain, but the ordering of all our pains for our good and His glory.  Paton saw little fruit on Tanna, but other missionaries would harvest that ground that by sweat, prayers, and deep suffering he had tilled.  Also many would dedicate their lives to spreading the message of Jesus to the hardest parts of the earth as a result of reading Paton’s autobiography.  Ultimately John was not delivered from much suffering and pain, but he was delivered from one island to go to another.  He would next go to the Island of Aniwa and see virtually the whole Island turn to Christ.

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By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. – Hebrews 11:30

Luther was devastated.  The Reformation had caught wind and enthusiasts with more zeal than knowledge began to try to assert their position by violence.  Luther did not wish to advance his cause by human might or wisdom.  He knew it could not be.  His was a victory by faith in the heralded word of the gospel. He wrote:

Give men time.  I took three years of constant study, reflection, and discussion to arrive where I now am, and can the common man, untutored in such matters, be expected to move the same distance in three months?  Do not suppose that the abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused.  Men can go wrong with wine and women.  Shall we then prohibit wine and abolish women?  The sun, moon, and stars have been worshipped.  Shall we then pluck them out of the sky?  See how much he [God] has been able to accomplish through me, though I did no more than pray and preach.  The Word did it all.  Had I wished I might have started a conflagration at Worms.  But while I sat still and drank beer with Philip and Amsdorf, God dealt the papacy a mighty blow.  – From Here I Stand by Roland H. Bainton

Or as he said in his famous hymn:

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

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By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.  – Hebrews 11:31

Tom Papania was a grandson to one of the original mobsters who brought the Mafia to the United States.  He was hard, even criminals were intimidated to look into his eyes.  He lied, he stole, he killed.  He was ready to kill himself one evening when the phone rang.  It was a friend inviting him to church.  The pastor could see into his soul and commented to Tom that he was a hurt little boy who needed love.  Tom felt exposed and went back that evening planning on killing the pastor.  Instead he found Jesus and went on to be a prison evangelist.  (Stolen from Richard D. Phillips’ Jesus the Evangelist)

Ultimate deliverance, victory, and salvation are never found outside of faith in Jesus.  By faith in Jesus these are already ultimately ours.