Can you relate to authority? Because every one of us serves under someone who has authority over us in some way. The Bible speaks to us in 1 Peter 2:11-25 about how we can submit in a loving, respectful way, even to those who are not "good" leaders. People who are under the authority of God tend to thrive under earthly authority, so as Christians, we submit to our government, our employer and church leadership.
How We Relate To God
How are we doing? Good morning. This is Stella. She's a Labradoodle. We got her for Christmas. She has ruined our lives. When I say we got her for Christmas, it's completely appropriate to ask why anyone would do that. She basically came in… She chews on the coffee table, she goes where she wants to go, she thinks my shoes are chew toys, she goes potty in the house, and she barks for no apparent reason whatsoever. I cannot figure it out. She just likes to shout all the time.
My daughter Finley is going to come up and take her, but I wanted to share that with you, because I've heard some people have the perspective that if they were looking down on earth they would think dogs were actually in a position of authority because they get carried everywhere or they lead humans around on leashes and people follow them and pick up their poop.
I can understand that perspective, why we might think they are in authority. Essentially, I've spent the last several weeks trying to teach Stella one thing: she is not in charge. She can't just do whatever she wants to do when she feels like it. That is the unfortunate reality for her life.
It's the same lesson I've been trying to learn all of my life, as I look back on how I've rebelled against authority, whether it was my parents in their home, whether it was teachers in the school, whether it was policemen or government officials as I grew older and rebellious, whether it was employers who were in positions of authority over me and I didn't think what they were asking me to do was fair or right or what I would do, and even in the church, when I came to this place and they tried to call me into something and I went home every day like, "Eh, not today. Not this week. Not yet."
In fact, you and I need to learn the same lesson today that I'm trying to teach Stella. It's this very simple lesson: you're not in charge. There are authorities in positions over you. Let me say it differently. There are people in charge of you. I'm not talking about God. I'm talking about people in authority whom God has placed in positions over you. Yes, it's going to be a hard message, so I started with a puppy. I'd give you all ice cream cones if I could.
So buckle up. We're going to dive into the Word. We're in this series, Can You Relate? and we're asking the question today…Can you relate to authority? Every one of us serves under an authority. With every week there has been some word that goes with the idea, and the word this week might as well be a curse word. It is the S-word: submission. That's the word that goes with…Can you relate to authority? What's my response to that? It is submission.
All of us have bumped up against bad authority, whether it's a government you disagree with, some laws that have been made you disagree with, outcomes in elections you didn't like, or maybe an employer who's asking you to do something ridiculous. Some of you maybe have suffered under employers, like we've seen in the news. Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer, those terrible situations.
For some of you, it's completely by the grace of God that you're here today, because you've been hurt by the church; someone who has been put in a place to shepherd you, and under the authority of God, they abused that authority and hurt you, and you carry those scars. You wear those scars. Thank you for just trusting us this morning as we dive into the Word. I'm glad God has moved you to a place of such healing that you would show up today. I'm thankful for that.
As we talk about this word submission, I'm not talking about a UFC fighter who can't breathe and he's in a choke hold so he finally, exasperated, taps out. I'm talking about a willing, joyful, respectful, kind, godly submission that this book calls us to over and over and over again. As you create arguments in your mind today, I want you to look carefully at the Scriptures I'm reading to you and let the Scriptures answer your questions.
If you forget the illustrations, if you forget the way I expound on them, just let the Scriptures simply answer your question. The submission we have comes from understanding that God has placed those in authority over us, just having a death grip on that. Let me tell you something. I can remember one specific circumstance… This isn't a generalization. This is a conversation I had with one particular homeless man.
As we engaged and I sought to meet his biggest needs, it became abundantly clear to me this guy's problem was that he hated authority so much he wanted freedom from it to the point that he had found himself with no roof over his head. He would say, "I choose to not be under authority. I'd rather live on the street than be under authority."
That's one end of the spectrum, but I've also met with a man who owns a business and has hundreds of millions of dollars and built an empire so he could spend his life trying to raise up above authority, so he could be in a position free from authority, a position in authority. If you think about it, for some of you, you came in today…
This is the American dream in your mind: that you would have so much money, such an empire, you would be above authority, figuring out how you can escape the rules. I don't know who's better off…this guy or this guy? They both have grossly missed biblical commands and have misapplied what the Scriptures simply say. We don't want to submit to authority; we want to be in authority, and it has created so much tension in the world right now.
I could describe a lot of things that would present this tension. People are walking out of schools, fighting for gun control laws. The teachers in Virginia are on strike in a place where it is illegal to be on strike, fighting for higher salaries, and employers like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer and so many others are in the hot seat for abusing the authority they had. You see movements like the #MeToo movement, and you see people who are angry, just completely frustrated at the president, and you have hashtags like #NotMyPresident.
There's so much tension we exist in today. What do we do about it? Does this give us any answers? Can this help us? I'm going to go over three authorities the Scripture calls us to submit to today. I'm going to be in 1 Peter, chapter 2. Some of you are asking, "But wait a minute. Is it ever appropriate not to? Civil disobedience." I'm going to address it, but hang on. Let's dive into the situation in the Scripture, and then we will get there.
To set this up, it's AD 64 when Peter writes this letter. He writes it to believing Jews and Gentiles alike, scattered throughout Asia Minor, under intense persecution. Nero is the emperor. We know a lot about Nero through our history books. We know this guy is a bad dude who doesn't like Christians. So Peter writes this. I'm going to start in verse 11.
"Dear friends, I urge you…" Like, "Listen up." "…as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."
He starts off with this premise. It's so important for us. "You live in a world you don't belong to. You don't belong to this world. You belong to another world, a redeemed form of this world, so as you're passing through, pay very careful attention to the laws and do good and be good so that people would know the King you serve and they would honor him."
It's like when I was driving through a town in Oklahoma called Atoka. Maybe you've been there. My friends from there warned me, "Hey, that's a speed trap, man. Be careful. They give out more tickets than residents on a monthly basis," or some crazy stat like this. I'm like, "Okay." So when I'm driving through, I'm watching for the signs.
I know I'm passing through a place I don't belong to and that they really are strict with the rules there. I'm cognizant of it. This is what Peter is saying. "Hey, you're passing through, you're driving through, this world on your way to eternity. As you're driving through for a moment, just be careful. Be on your best behavior so people would know who you serve." Verse 13:
"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves." That's so important. Underline that. "Live as God's slaves." "Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor."
So here we have a what, a why, and a how. The what is verse 13. "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority…" For the Lord's sake. The reason you do this is not to get a promotion. It's not to be liked. It's not to curry favor. It's not just when they look at you. It's so they would know your God and glorify him. It says it over and over and over and over. This is the right mentality of the Christian.
Why would we do this? "For it is God's will…""What's God's will? I want to know God's will. What's God's will for my life? Where should I work? Who should I marry? Where should I live?" "For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people." That they would see your good deeds and glorify God. There it is again.
How do I do that? Verse 17: "Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.""But, man, there's corrupt authority out there. Why would God allow corrupt authority? Because it seems like, as I look backward, he always has." Because lights shine brighter in the darkness; because the juice comes out when it's pressed; so that the world can see love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control and say, "How do they have that? That's so different than those not surrendered to the Lord."
Titus 2:10 says when we submit to authority we make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. I'm just going to give it to you so you can hear the rest of the message, because right now you're like, "Wait a minute. I don't want to be a pushover." That's what I think we're afraid of. "I don't want to be anybody's dog, telling me to sit and lay down and roll over and fetch. 'Go grab the TPS reports and bring them back.' I don't want to be anybody's dog."
That's what we feel. "When do I not?" It's really simple. Verse 16: "…live as God's slaves." Here it is: when obeying earthly authority means disobeying your heavenly authority, you don't submit. It's that simple. It's not more complicated than that. When obeying your earthly authority means disobeying your heavenly authority, you don't. But can I tell you something? How you do this really, really matters. We all struggle with the flesh. We all have a little bit of "I ain't doing that" inside of us.
I spend my time with young adults, and they're like, "You won't believe me. Are you ready to pat me on the back? My boss told me to go to the strip club, and you know what I said? I said, 'I ain't doing that! Nuh-uh! No. Christ follower. You fire me if you want to.' See what I did there, JP?" "Did you say it like that? Because I would have fired you right there. I don't know if that was the best representation of Christ right there. Is that how you did it? That's not what I see in the Scripture."
1._ As we relate to authority, we submit to government._ What does that mean? We obey the law and we respect those tasked with enforcing it. This is so far from where we are right now. Even those of you who think, "I do this really well…" We still have some rebellious aspects of us. I'll just give you an example. As I was driving through Atoka, even with the warnings, I got pulled over. Missed the sign. It's a long story. Not a long story. I was speeding; I got pulled over.
I see the blue and red lights behind me, and I'm so wicked, because I did this thing. I know none of you do this, but me… I immediately go to one question, a terrible question, an awful question. I repent. It's this question: "How do I get out of this?" I know none of you have asked that question, but I'm sitting there asking, "How do I get out of this?"
The officer is walking to my car. I accidentally roll down the back window. "See my children back there, sir?" In the front window, you know, hands on the wheel, keys on the dash. "I'm so sorry. Oh, was I speeding? I didn't even know that." That's not true. So I'm thinking, "How do I get out of this?" But as I'm reading this, I'm like, "What would a person fully yielded to the Spirit do?" First, not speed.
Secondly, if I truly missed it… "First of all, I just want to say thank you for risking your life for the safety of my friends, my family, my peers, me. I want to thank you for your service. Secondly, you got me. I'm guilty as charged. I was speeding. The sign said not to, and I'm ready for whatever fine you want to give me. Let's go. I deserve it because I broke the law. I should receive the consequence, and I'm ready to benefit the dear citizens of Atoka here."
See, true freedom comes from submission. Not the freedom to speed but the freedom to follow the law and avoid the fines. I think for most of us, you're like, "But I do. I follow authority." You're probably right. You do…until you think it's unfair or ridiculous or you disagree with it. At some core inside of you, you're like, "I disagree with it." I'm not just talking about gross disagreement. I'm talking about like, "The speed limit here is 30 miles an hour? Who would drive 30 miles an hour on this road? There's nobody else on this road. I'm not doing that."
Or parking on the wrong side of the street and then getting frustrated that you got a ticket. It's like, "Why would they give me a ticket?" Because you broke the law. That's what happens. You're supposed to get a ticket when you break the law. It's like, "No cell phones in a school zone? Surely that means I can be on speaker phone and just look like I'm crazy, talking to myself. Certainly, when they say 'no cell phones,' they don't literally mean no cell phones. That can't be what they mean."
If that didn't get you, maybe this one: "You can't bring candy into the movie theater? But Sour Patch Kids are like $27. I'm not trying to take out a loan to get my kids some candy. They're 99 cents at 7-Eleven. Why wouldn't I do that?" Then you teach your kids not to obey authority. Do you see what you just did? "Hey, here's a lesson. When they say those rules, they don't really mean those rules. I don't have to follow those rules. When you grow up like me, you don't have to follow them either." We didn't think about it like that, though.
It says not to use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, that we would follow the law. The freedom to follow the law. We don't slander those in positions of governmental authority. We don't slander our president. You can express your opinion. You sure can, but make sure (this is the heart, the path of this message) your conduct is much louder than your speech, that when people see you vent and rant on Facebook they don't go, "Oh, that's just what they do. They just vent and rant all the time about everything."
Or "Man, if they're saying something, there must be really something here, because that person is excellent in everything they do, and they're constantly honoring God in everything they do. If they have an opinion, I want to lean in. I really want to listen to that." Can I tell you something? Why don't you make sure you are committed to praying for your president much more than you'd post about him? That you would pray about him exponentially more than you would post about him.
This comes directly out of 1 Timothy 2:1-2. "I urge, then…" Again, an urging. "…first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." Do you want to live a peaceful and godly life? Do you want to live in a peaceful land? The most effective thing you can do is pray.
The most productive thing you can do is not run to Twitter but get on your knees and pray. The most productive thing you can do is talk to the one who's in charge of everyone who's in charge. And vote. Unbiased voter's guide, freevotersguide.com. I'd encourage you to go there. I will tweet that out at 1:30 today. You can have that post. Go there and look. Know the issues. Know the candidates.
You're hearing this, and you're saying, "Yeah, but Peter didn't have to deal with Trump. When he's writing this… JP, I mean, have you seen the man's tweets? He's heckling a foreign ruler about the size of his nuclear button. Peter didn't have to deal with that." You're right. He didn't. He had to deal with Nero. Let's talk about Nero. He's crazy. He's not a government raising your taxes or passing bad health care or going crazy on Twitter.
He's a lunatic cross-dresser who is burning Christians alive on sticks outside the city. You're walking home from work, and there's your aunt used as a human torch on the side of the road. That's who he's writing this about. Nero killed his mother and his first wife, married a little boy, had him castrated, and dressed him up as a woman to pretend to be his wife. Is he crazy? What kind of tweets is that man sending?
The Holy Spirit through Peter has the audacity to say, "Show him honor as God's appointed." What? He just removed all of our excuses, anything you could say. "But he, but he, but he…" Romans 13: "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." It says it twice. Listen up. "Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted…" That's three times. "…and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."
"You're saying God put everyone in positions of authority?" Yes. "What about Hitler?" Yes. "Joseph Stalin?" Uh-huh. "Mao Zedong?" Yeah. "Kim Jong-un?" Even him. Even Nero. Why? Why would he do that? Why would he let such corrupt leaders? Christianity has thrived under corrupt government. It's purified, and it grows. Oppression is the garden Christianity grows in. It's like fertilizer to Christ followers.
You say, "Why would he do that? Why would he do that?" Are you ready for the answer? I don't know if you want the answer. So that you'd be persecuted and show who your hope is in. That's the best why I can give you. Just remember I started with a puppy. Listen. Peter, the one penning this letter… The man he's saying show honor to had him crucified upside down, had him killed. That was the fruit of his obedience here. I mean, that and he got to be with God forever and ever and ever and ever and ever in his kingdom in paradise.
He says, "Honor the emperor." So we obey earthly authorities unless it means disobeying our heavenly authority, and then we don't. He goes on to write in verse 18, "Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh." Even the harsh masters.
2._ As we relate to authority, we submit to our employer_. Todd did an excellent message on relating to work. If you missed it, I'd encourage you to go on the Watermark app and listen to that message. There will be some recap here. It starts with slaves/masters. What does that mean? All we think about is the gross black eye on our country's history. When we think of slavery, we think of a racial slavery. This is not a racial slavery. It's very different than a racial slavery.
Anybody of any color and any ethnicity could be a slave in this time. You were an indentured servant. It means you were in debt to someone and you would have to pay that debt back by working for them. It was something you agreed to do. "Hey, would you give me this loan so I can get my family out of this situation? Then I will come up under you as a slave, and if I don't pay off what I owe you, then my children will work for you."
That's what it means here when it says slaves and masters. But it wasn't always a pleasant relationship, because it consists of sinners. There were some terrible situations, so he goes on to write in verse 19, "For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God."
Anybody here ever had a bad boss? Don't raise your hand. They might be here behind you. I don't know the situation, but did they beat you? Because it's speaking to that. You say, "Well, what do I do if they actually did beat me?" Here's what you do. Because of where we live and because of point number one and because we have a pretty great government, you call the authorities if someone beats you. You call the government officials, who come to your rescue and protect you and help you.
If you're in a Harvey Weinstein situation, a Matt Lauer situation, you raise your hand, you shine a bright spotlight on it, and you get help immediately because of the blessing of where we live and what we have. But what about the rest of us who just have bosses who ask us to do dumb things? Like changing the rows to columns or the columns to rows or "Hey, I want you to change the font color or the font style here." "I'm going to need you to come in this weekend." "Thank you for all of that work. I'd like to go ahead and put my name on it, if that's okay."
What about those situations? Those are probably more realistic. Those are unfair. I think that's what we're afraid of. The cry of our heart is, "But what about when it's unfair?" It's not going to be fair. There's nothing about getting crucified upside down for being obedient that's fair. There's nothing fair about that. It's not going to be fair.
I hit you with some Andy Mineo last week. You got to see my music genre of choice. Here's a little rap I wrote for you: "When someone tells you what to do, don't resent the what, respect the who." I have adapted that from something I heard Andy Stanley say once. When someone tells you what to do, don't resent the what, respect the who. "Are they in charge, and are they asking me to sin?" I don't know that you need to go beyond those two questions. "Are they in a position of authority over me? Because then I'm going to do it, unless it's sin, and then I'm not."
"But what if I disagree?" Well, you can say, "Hey, I don't know that that's best. Can I present some other options to you?" respectfully, like Daniel. Remember Daniel with the food? He's like, "Hey, I don't want to eat that, but what if I eat this, and you could come back and monitor my health?" You can always suggest those kinds of things, but just remember they're in charge. Do you know what else you can do?
Because of that point number one… Texas is a "hire at-will" state. You can leave. You can say, "Hey, I no longer want to work here under these conditions anymore. I'm going to go find employment elsewhere." You can do that. Do you know what you can't do? You can't gossip. You can't slander. You can't be disrespectful. You can't dishonor them in any way. The Scripture leaves absolutely no room for that as you represent Jesus out there. Submit in reverent fear of God, not people.
Colossians 3 says, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters…" We've addressed what that means. " [Employees, obey your employers] in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do [anything you do] , work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward."
Because do you know who you're serving? "It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Your work is an act of worship to him. Can I tell you something? God distributes the promotions. He's in charge of the promotions. He chooses when you get promoted. "The king's heart is like a water course in his hand. He directs it wherever he pleases." Do you see how productive prayer might be in that situation?
Do you believe that? When you're working for God at Starbucks or in retail or at Richardson ISD or University Park Independent School District or ABC Companies or AT&T or wherever you're working, do you believe God is the one who is in charge and that he works through bad bosses sometimes? He works through harsh environments sometimes, and it's not fair. Those situations that are not fair are your greatest opportunities to show whom you serve.
I was in corporate America, and I interviewed for a promotion. Now this promotion could be the last job I'd ever have. That's the way I was thinking about it. "Man, if I get that job, I could do that until I retire," where I was thinking at the time. So I went to the interview, and that started me on a three-year journey of fighting for that job, a three-year journey auditioning for that job.
It was within the company I was working for. It was an internal promotion. We went on a hiring freeze, and then there was some turnover in management, and I kept trying to get this job. Everything I did was to try and get this job. So here we are, three years later. I'm trying to get this job, and it's the last interview. It's the last thing to run through. It's the last hurtle to jump over, hoop to jump through.
I'm like, "I'm going to leave today knowing if I got the promotion or not. Three-year journey comes to an end today." I put on my best suit, my power tie. I show up. I'm meeting with the VP of this organization. I'm so excited. I have people praying for me. I walk in. It starts off great. "How are you? So great to meet you. Heard a lot of things about you." I sit down, and then 30 seconds in he says, "Hey, I had the opportunity to read an email you wrote, and I would describe it, at best, as less than unprofessional." That's unfortunate. "Can you help me understand why you wrote that email?"
"I'm not sure… Sir, I don't know what email you're talking about."
"Well, here's what was going on. You were transitioning a customer from your organization to my organization, and you told them they shouldn't leave, that it wasn't best for them, when you know it was best for them. I've got to think you were financially motivated."
He's out of the seat, leaning over the table at this point. His face is red, and there are curse words as he tells me I was less than unprofessional. I'm just like, "What?" I'm sitting there and I'm taking it. I'm sitting on my hands and listening, and I'm trying to think, What email? What email did I send? Okay, what customer transitioned? I was like, There was that customer. Okay, what could it have been?
"How long ago was it? Can you help me understand? I don't remember who it was." "Well, that's convenient. Yeah, you don't remember who it was, huh?" I got to thinking, "This is all a sham. Three years of my life, wasted. This guy brought me here not to interview me but to yell at me and to punish me." Finally, I had the courage to stand up for myself, and I did so.
I said, "You know what, sir? I want you to know why I sent that email. I'm telling you honestly I have no recollection of sending that email, but I think if you could pull up the email and we could look at it together, I could tell you exactly what was going on through my heart and my head and why I would send that email. At least, for no other reason, I'm going to leave here and you're going to understand the answer to your question, which is why did I send the email. I want you to have that answer. Can you find out who the customer was?"
He said, "Sure." He gets on the Polycom, dials up. A guy answers. "Matt, who was that customer that JP…? We read that email, and he said he didn't want to change organizations, wanted to keep him where he was. Who was that customer?" The guy on the Polycom says, "You mean JD?"
"No, no, no. That customer JP sent. Remember, we read it and we said it was less than unprofessional? Who was that customer?"
"Oh, that was JD, sir."
"Oh, okay. It must have been some other customer, some other email I'm thinking of. Thank you."
Hangs up, looks at me. "We'll get back to you." What? I'm shaking, walking back to my car. I'm like, "Did that just happen? That's not fair." You won't believe what happened. Do you know what happened? I got the job. I always just assumed he felt bad. About two years into it, I finally had the courage to ask him. "Hey, remember that interview? What was going on there?"
He said, "Oh yeah, that? That was a test. You only grow when you're uncomfortable." Which is true, by the way. He said, "Yeah, that was a test." I have to tell you something. Between you and me (and the world listening), I don't know that it was a test. I think it was a mistake, but it was a test. It's always a test. Anytime you have a harsh situation, a difficult authority, something that's unfair, it is always a test. Always a test. How are you doing?
He writes this letter to the church, foreigners and exiles, strangers and aliens. He says in verse 17, "…love the family of believers…" He's writing this to the family of believers. This letter is to those within the church. It's not even to you if you're outside the church. It's to those who are a part of the church. You say, "Well, has a Christian ever been a Christian and not a part of a church?" Historically speaking, no. That would be confusing at best.
3._ As we relate to authority, we submit to church leadership._ Every now and then, I'll talk to young adults after The Porch, and I'll ask, "What church are you involved in? Whose authority are you under?" They're like, "Only God, man."
"Yeah, I hear you, but who has God placed in authority over you?"
"Oh, you mean the Holy Spirit?"
"No, no, no. Like, who's in authority?"
That sounds so spiritual, but it's unbiblical. God has placed authority over us. Peter writes about this in chapter 5 of the same letter. He says, "…submit yourselves to your elders." Speaking of church elders. The author of Hebrews says it like this: "Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you."
You hear that, and you may think, "Well, this is a really self-serving point, JP." No, no, no. You need to understand I'm under the authority of the elders. I have double accountability. They are both my employer and my spiritual authority. As I've gotten to spend more time with those men, my confidence in their authority has only grown. They, I believe, constantly seek the good of the flock they shepherd. As I submit to them, I want to be a joy, not a burden.
See, this was written in a time where the church had real authority. In Philippians, chapter 4, there are these two women fighting, and Paul essentially says, "Hey, knock it off. Stop it. Stop fighting. Get along. Next." Like, "What other things do we need to cover? You guys stop fighting. Next." But we come up here… Like 4B, for example. "Hey, guys. Would you please fill out your 4B?" We have cute videos and Star Wars and stuff.
Thousands of you have, and thank you for doing that; 812 of you haven't. "You're not the boss of me. I ain't got time for that." Okay. It's for your good, though. We're not just trying to give you drudgery. We're just trying to shepherd the flock, just trying to do the best we can, that you wouldn't be sheep without a shepherd. We want you to be protected, because a Christian outside the authority of the elders is a rebel, a rogue Christian…confusing at best, not a Christian at worst.
That everyone would belong somewhere. If you're here and you're hearing this message and you know you're not somewhere… You've been sitting here. You don't belong. Every week you're like, "Oh, I can't make that class." Discover Watermark. That's the next step for you. Go to watermark.org. It's spelled out for you. We've done everything we can to make it as easy as possible for those who are committed to belonging here. Go to watermark.org. You can do that today. Don't be a sheep going astray. Return to the shepherd.
Verse 21: "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.'" It wasn't fair. He didn't sin. He hadn't lied. "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." His ultimate authority, his Father in heaven.
"'He himself bore our sins' in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; 'by his wounds you have been healed.' For 'you were like sheep going astray,' but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." This text shows Christ's amazing example of submission to authority. What was fair about the cross? It goes to great lengths to show you he did nothing wrong, and he didn't retaliate.
He didn't try to one-up or win an argument. He stood there and endured the consequence, trusting himself… That's the thing you have to understand. "But it's not fair." But God judges. You don't have to seek revenge here all the time. Take a deep breath. God is in charge. Hands not off the wheel. I know you're like, "Yeah, but I don't want to be anybody's dog." Do you want to be like Christ? "I don't want to be anybody's dog." Do you want to be like Jesus? Do you want to be Christlike?
Jesus died on a slave's cross. It was originally reserved for slaves who had broken the law, and then it was adopted by the Romans for those who were enemies of the Roman state. He died on a slave's cross. When we don't like authority, we want to vent and bring others in and talk to people. He kept his mouth shut. He didn't say anything. It says he remained silent. In fact, when Pontius Pilate said to him…
"'Do you refuse to speak to me?' Pilate said. 'Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?' Jesus answered, 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.'""See, my Dad is in charge. I don't know if you heard, but I've been healing people. Hands, feet, eyes. They can hear. What are you going to do to me unless my Dad allows you to?"
You have to remind yourself you're not of this world. You belong to your Father's kingdom. People who are under the authority of God tend to be the ones who thrive under earthly authority. They're the ones who people think, "Man, there's something different about that one. There's something different about that one. There's something different about that one, just their attitude."
You say, "What about this? When do we rebel? You said we were going to get to it. When do we rebel, though? Aren't there examples in Scripture where people said, 'Hey, I'm going to obey God, not man'?" Absolutely. Let me give you a few. Exodus, chapter 1. You have Pharaoh's midwives. You have Pharaoh, who's in charge. Absolute authority. He tells the midwives, "Hey, I want you to kill the Hebrew boys who are born."
It says they feared God, so they didn't, and they lied about it. "They're having boys before we can get there." It says God honored that. So if anyone comes to you and says, "Hey, you have to kill children or else," don't do it. You can even lie about it if that's the situation. Don't kill children. I'm not trying to make light of that. I mean it literally. Don't do that.
We go to Daniel 3. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar is crazy. He built a statue made of gold. "You have to bow down and worship it." "Sir, we just can't do that. It's fine. If you want to throw us in the fire, that's fine. Our God will rescue us. Even if he doesn't, we're not going to worship anyone but him." Don't worship anybody but God. If someone tells you to worship someone else but God, don't do it.
Daniel 6. "Daniel, you have to stop praying. You can't pray to God anymore. You can only pray to the king, only pray to Darius." "I'm sorry; I can't do that. You can feed me to the lions. My God will shut their mouths, but I'm going to keep praying to him." If somebody tells you not to pray, keep praying. Acts, chapter 5. You have Peter and the apostles. The government comes in. "Hey, we told you not to teach in this guy's name. Do not teach in his name!"
"Respectfully, we can't do that. We've got to tell the whole world. This thing we're talking about tends to thrive when people say things like you're saying, and we have to keep saying it. You can keep saying it, and you can throw us in jail. You see how that angel just broke us out, though. Right? You can throw us in jail." He says this, in fact. "Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than human beings!'"
So when obeying your earthly authority means disobeying your heavenly authority, don't do it. Your heavenly authority may call you to stand up against that which is evil. Don't do it apart from the church. Make sure you're not just going rogue. We know the only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to sit by and do nothing. So absolutely, come together as a church and talk. "Hey, is this the time that we're supposed to?" We'll guide and lead you, protect you, help you, process that with you.
It's funny. With Stella, we got her some training, talked to some dog trainers. I'm thinking like, "Okay, dog training. Like, 'Sit. Lie down. Roll over.' Like, neighbors come over and we have some tricks to show them." They're like, "No, no, no. What you want is you want her to look at you for permission before she does anything. That's really what you're going for. You want her to know you're in authority and that before she goes outside she looks and asks for permission; before she eats she looks and asks for permission; that she's there to serve your household."
I thought, "What an amazing picture of the bondservant of Christ." That before we do anything, in all our ways we'd acknowledge him, and he would make our paths straight. In everything we do, we'd look to God, "Is this what you'd have me do?" and he would show us where to go. It's interesting that as trainers have come into her life and we've taken her through training… We took her to training, man. Had to. Now she's a blessing. She's a gift to our home.
In summary, we honor God by submitting to government, our employer, and the church, every human authority, until obeying earthly authority means disobeying our heavenly authority. As I thought about who did this really well, other than Jesus, I thought about a man named Jackie Robinson. He was recruited to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. You may have seen the movie 42. That was his number. The movie, critics have said, has a huge hole in it. It leaves out the most important part of Jackie Robinson: his faith. Jackie Robinson was a Christ follower.
When Branch Rickey was looking for someone to recruit to the Dodgers, there were other black athletes who were better than Jackie Robinson. He had other options that were better than Jackie Robinson, but he famously said, "I'm looking for someone with enough guts not to fight back." He chose Jackie Robinson, and it was said (this came from the Washington Post) that Jackie Robinson asked God "for the strength to continue resisting the temptation to fight back, or to say something he would regret."
The man had a profound impact on our country, and he did so by being excellent at what he did and honoring the authority that was over him. I don't know if you know this, but did you know Major League Baseball has permanently retired the number 42? No one can wear it except on April 15. Everyone in the entire league wears it on that day, Jackie Robinson Day. He's still having a profound impact on our country.
What did he do? He submitted himself, for the Lord's sake, to every human authority. He knew it is God's will that by doing good he would silence the ignorant talk of foolish people, and he did so by showing respect to everyone, loving the family of believers, fearing God, and honoring his authority. And the Lord blessed it. Let me pray for us.
Father, thank you for the example of your Son Jesus, for the example of humans you've sent here to be examples we would talk about this morning, who yielded to your Holy Spirit and submitted to earthly authority in unfair situations and you blessed it. God, there's something rebellious in us, something vigilante-like in us that just wants to go and make revenge for every single thing we see unjust in this broken world we temporarily live in.
God, would you give us wisdom and discernment? Please, wisdom and discernment. Help us to know when to and when not to. Would you direct our steps? Father, we need your help. Would you help us to shine brightly? Help us to honor you in the choices we make. We thank you for Peter's letter and the way it's still so relevant in 2018, that we would apply it to our lives. In Jesus' name, amen.