On his 16th birthday, a son approached his father and said, "Dad, I'm 16 now. So when I get my license, can I drive the family car?" His father said, "Son, driving the car takes maturity. First you must prove you're responsible enough to drive it. One way you can do that is to bring your grades up, they're not acceptable. Second, you must read your Bible every day. And finally, you need to get that hair cut; it looks outrageous." The son set about trying to fulfill his father's requirements, but he thought maybe the last one might be impossible, since he really loved his hair.
When the grades came out at school, the boy went to his dad with a smile on his face. "Look, Dad," he said, "all A's & B's on my report card. Now can I drive the car?" His father said, "Very good, son. You're one-third the way there, but have you been reading the Bible every day?" "Yes, Dad, every day," he said. His father said, "Very good. Now you're two-thirds there. However, I still need to ask, "When are you going to get that hair cut?" The boy, thinking to outsmart his old dad, said, "Well, I don't see why I should have to get my hair cut just to drive the car. Jesus had long hair, didn't He?" His father looked at him and said, "That's right, son, and Jesus walked everywhere He went."
Obedience is a concept that is not held in very high esteem in our culture these days. It seems like over the past generation or so, we've taken the traditional view of rugged American individualism and just sort of gone crazy with it. It used to be, if the history books and people I've talked to are correct, that most people lived within the conventions of society and obeyed its rules, both written and unwritten. Of course, there were always a few rebels who felt the need to "push the envelope," disobey the authority figures and the "powers that be." Usually, however, a small amount of disobedience was winked at and chalked up to the rebellious nature of youth. Folks, those days over! Rebellion is now the standard; obedience is the exception.
We live in a day and age when people who say that children should have to notify (not get permission of, but simply notify) their parents before they can get an abortion are labeled as the parental equivalent of fascists. Just recently, the Louisiana state legislature felt the need to vote, by a wide margin, to enact a law that would require public-school students in that state to address their teachers as, "Sir," or "Ma'am," and to use "Mr.", "Mrs.", or "Ms." when addressing them in the third person. It seems that obedience is now often something that needs to be mandated by law, and not something that's simply expected of people.
And if children are not expected to obey authority figures, then certainly adults don't have to, either. Nowadays, if you don't care for a mandate handed down from someone who has authority over you, feel free to just ignore it, or seek permission to disobey it in a court of law -- which happens all the time on state & federal levels. And if it's not a legal matter, then just ignore the rules; or, better yet, decry them as outmoded, unjust, leftovers of a bygone era, or simple-minded.
Ted Turner, in Newsweek just last March, said, about one of the Ten Commandments, "If you're only going to have 10 rules, I don't know if [a rule against] adultery should be one of them." I wonder if his wife, Jane Fonda, feels the same way!
Now, by pointing out this lack of respect for the whole idea of obedience, I realize I'm not saying anything new to most of us here. Someone even pointed out that one of the first things one notices about any "backward" country is that the children there obey their parents. It's rampant. We all see it. So it becomes easy to get on that subject and never get off, to ride that hobby horse all day long.
Jesus had something to say about this subject of obedience. However, He didn't put the burden for disobedience on one specific generation or upon just one group of people. He talked about obedience to all who claim to follow Him.
Luke 6:46-49 (NKJV) "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say? 47 "Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 "He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 "But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great."
What Jesus says here about obedience is relatively straightforward. He's just finished delivering the message that contained all the great ethical precepts of His teaching. In Matthew, it's called the Sermon on the Mount. Here, in Luke, it's usually called the Sermon on the Plain. Likely, we have two accounts of same message delivered on at least two separate occasions. In it, Jesus lays it all out: love your enemies, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, forgive those who wrong you, forgive those who wrong you time and time again, do unto others ... all of His great ethical teaching is presented in this message.
Then, as a conclusion to the message, Jesus says something like, "It's important to actually do these things I've told you, not just think it's a good idea to do them, but to actually follow through and do them." And then He tells this little story, what's known as a parable, to illustrate what He's talking about.
Jesus says that the person who listens to and actually does what he says is like the builder who digs deep and sets the foundation on solid rock. When storms come, the house will be fine. But, He also says that person who listens and doesn't follow through is like the fellow who built his house on the ground without a foundation. And when storms come against his house, the ground gets soggy and shifts beneath it. And then the whole mess comes crashing down around him.
This little paragraph of Jesus' is pretty straightforward, pithy -- it makes sense: Of course one can't just think about His commands, you've got to follow through. Jesus is saying, "If you want to protect your life from damage, you've got to be wise and obey my commandments and my rules for your life - that's the key."
We could leave it at that and finish now, but since we all have an incredible talent for self-delusion, we need to look beyond the surface meaning here and realize several implications of Jesus' words. I want to take just a few minutes and do just that.
One implication of Jesus' words here has to do with our obedience and submission to His teaching, of submitting to him as LORD of our lives.
Have you ever heard a Christian say, "I have been a Christian for a while now, but I just made Jesus Lord?" Folks, Jesus Christ "is" Lord, you don't make him Lord, God did that. Our response is to submit to His Lordship. The Greek word use here for Lord is kurios, which means: "supreme in authority, controller, master."
Since Jesus Christ is Lord, our responsibility is to live in submission to Him. To call him Lord but not live in submission to His commands is hypocrisy. The principle of subordination is absolutely essential in the life of a Christian.
The reason we have such a problem with this is that the prevailing view of people in America today is one of rebellion and resistance. If we don't agree with the authority, we resist it. This spirit of lawlessness has spilled over into the church, and we must see it as sin.
Romans 13:1-2 (NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Here we have a principle that is unqualified, unlimited, and unconditional - ALL AUTHORITIES ARE GOD APPOINTED.
"Let every soul" is from the Greek words, pas psuche, which mean: "all life." "Be subject" is the Greek word, hupotasso, which is a military term meaning: "to line up to take your orders." It's in the present imperative middle, which means: "to habitually be in subjection." Everyone is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.
This verse speaks of government, but the principle is universal. All human authority is delegated and ministerial. This includes the authority of parents, employers, policemen, teachers, church leaders, or any other authority. Anyone who is in a place of authority on earth, has had that authority delegated to him by God.
Daniel 4:17 (NKJV) "'This decision is by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.'"
Therefore, all rebellion is against God, because all power is ordained by God. Whoever the existing authorities are, we are to be subject to them.
Just because someone is in authority over us doesn't mean that they're better than us, or smarter, or more qualified than us. Subordination involves no degradation, a person is not dishonored by being subject to someone else.
1 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV) "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."
The word "head" is kephale, it means: "government or authority." Authority and subordination have nothing to do with essence, it strictly deals with function. In essence and nature, Christ and God are equal; but by God's design, the function of the Son demanded that He submit to the Father in a beautiful act of humiliation.
In marriage - for the sake of function, the woman is to take the place of submission. The man doesn't have to be smarter or have better sense to be in authority, we all know that he usually isn't. He is the authority in the home because God made him the authority. There is no dishonor for the woman to be in subjection to the man. Women, if Jesus Christ is your Lord, you are to live in submission to your husband.
In government - Why do we have to submit to those in authority? Is it because they're better than everyone else? No! Because there has to be authority and submission or there will be anarchy, and no society can survive anarchy.
In the church - God has called the pastors to lead, and the people to submit. This is not because the pastors are better or more spiritual than you, we are all equal in Christ. There is no clergy - laity division in the church, the pastors are leaders among equals. The pastors are in authority simply because God has called them to lead. It's simply a matter of function.
Most Christians don't think rebellion is any big deal, we resist authority and don't give it a second thought. How about you, is your life characterized by submission or rebellion? Do you obey the speed limit? Wear seat belts? Is the software on your computer yours, or are you violating copyright laws? So many believers break the law and think nothing of it, but God does. How would you respond if you found out that a Christian friend of yours was involved in witchcraft or idolatry? Would it concern you? Would you talk to them about it?
1 Samuel 15:23 (NKJV) "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry."
Why is submission so hard for us? It hard because of a thing called "Pride"! What was the first sin? Pride! Satan said in Isaiah 14, "I will be like the most high." In the garden of Eden, the first sin was also pride. The temptation of the serpent came with these words,"You will be like God." The temptation to be like God is greater than we think, we all face it. We resist being subject to law. We squirm when we are placed under too much authority. We love to be free of restraints, free of accountability.
Our quest to be like God is a quest to be above law. It is the quest for autonomy. Autonomy means literally: "self-law." A person who seeks to be utterly autonomous is a person who seeks to be a law unto himself. He is answerable to no one.
1 Peter 5:5 (NKJV) "Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.""
By nature, we are all rebels, our pride causes us to rebel against authority, we don't want anyone telling us what to do, especially someone who is not as smart as we are.
Rebellion is a serious sin against God because all power is ordained by God and is to be submitted to. We are to obey and submit to all those who are in authority over us.
Acts 5:28-29 (NKJV) "saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!" 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men."
The one time that we have a right to disobey our authority is when it commands us not to do something God has commanded us to do. Or when it commands us to do something God has commanded us not to do. This is the only exception I see in Scripture.
If we are under an authority that is acting in an unwise or ungodly manner, we can try to change them through the proper channels, with the proper attitude. If that doesn't work, we can remove ourselves from there authority, change jobs, churches, or countries. Not everyone has this option. Children, your stuck with your parents, and wives, your stuck with your husbands. Some people in some situations have some options, but rebellion is never one of them.
I pray that you would give serious thought to your responsibility to authorities. This is very important to your well being, as we'll see in a moment.
There's another implication to this parable about the inevitability of storms in life. Notice that Jesus did not say, "If a flood should come." He said, "When the flood came ...." The nature of the fallen world we live in, a world corrupted by sin, is that bad things are going to happen to people on occasion because of nothing they've done or haven't done, and with no respect to their disposition before God. It's not all "cause and effect." Jesus says, "When this happens, you had better have built your life on the foundation of following my commands, or it won't stand against the storms of life."
A few years ago, my 16-year-old boy was driving to school one day and was killed in a car wreck. They don't know exactly what happened, but there was no maliciousness nor negligence involved. It was simply a great tragedy.
I cannot really imagine how devastated his parents were by this. To see the middle of their three children taken from them just when he was beginning to reach adulthood, just when they were getting a good glimpse of all the potential he had -- potential that he will, tragically, never fulfill.
The parents were not Christians. Do you know how they dealt with this? Largely through denial and blaming God. The father has retreated into using alcohol to dull the pain at times. The father went out and got a tattoo on his arm that is his "memorial" to his lost son. Sadly, that's what he's got to remember his son by.
Now, I could contrast that by telling you many stories of several families who have had tragedies in their lives. They grieved for a time, but they didn't seek solace in self-destructive behavior, nor become bitter. Neither did they feel the need to create some type of altar to their lost loved one, in the form of a shrine or a tattoo, etc. It took time, but they dealt with their grief, and now, their memories have turned from things that always hurt when they come up to cherished memories that comfort them greatly.
You know what made the difference. It was the fact that the latter were people of faith who lived in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They built foundations for their lives to rest upon. The storms and floods of life came at them -- death, sickness, financial loss, loneliness, betrayal, etc. -- they were hurt and they grieved for a time. But then the foundation they'd built allowed them to recover, to stand firm.
That's something not every Christian has. The metaphorical storms of life are inevitable, but Jesus reassures us and says, "If you're smart, you'll build a solid foundation, by obedience and those storms won't destroy you."
One more implication; regarding the beneficial nature of God's rules for our lives. Once, a museum had "Do Not Touch" signs on all their exhibits. Still, however, they had problems with people touching, and soiling their priceless furniture and art. They finally solved the problem when a clever employee replaced the "Do Not Touch" signs with ones that read, "Caution: Wash Hands After Touching!"
One can present the Christian life in such a way that it looks like nothing more than a bunch of rules - don't do this, don't do that, don't do anything that might be fun, etc. - but that's the worst light you can put it in. The truth is that God's "rules" are more like a "Caution Sign" than a "Do Not Touch" sign. They are there for our own protection, joy, and fulfillment in life.
Jesus doesn't say, "You'd better obey my words, or the Father is going to punish you." He says, "You'd better listen to and follow through on my words so that you'll be able to survive life."
God's guidelines for our lives are given for the purpose of our protection and our happiness. There is a wide host of guidelines that God has for us that world says are ridiculous - guidelines about the sanctity & exclusivity of the marital relationship, about the restriction of sexual activity to marriage, the emphasis on others before self, on forgiveness freely given when asked for, that honesty is always the best policy, that materialism is not the road to real happiness - every last one of these "rules," plus all the others that are found in God's Word, are given to us for our own good. And if we're smart, we'll realize that and seek to live by God's guidelines.