Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Solution to Sin

Last time in my blog I discussed the problem of sin.  In other posts, I have consistently discussed that the only way to deal with sin is through a life-changing event through Jesus Christ.  This event is called the rebirth (or being born again.)  As you can already gather this post is going to go down a similar path.  But I want to talk about this from a different angle.  In this post, I want to personalize this experience because I believe that what many people think about Christians and that particular "moment" of conversion is faulty, incomplete or just plain wrong. 

Some people think that this life changing event (salvation) could not happen to them.  The enemy of our souls (Satan) has done a lot in our culture to perpetuate this lie.  Here's the thing about this lie.  We believe we're not worthy…that because of all the bad things we've done there's no way we can make up for it.  Well, that's right.  So it's a good thing that it doesn't depend on us.  Read my post on My Righteousness vs. God's Righteousness for more on this.  The thing is is that Jesus took care of our sin problem on the cross.  He paid the price for our mistakes.  All of them.

I understand that the last paragraph can be confusing.  The message that the Bible tells us about Jesus is not supposed to be confusing.  In fact, it's supposed to be so simple that even a child with child-like faith can believe in Jesus and be saved.  Put it this way...we can't save ourselves.  We can't "afford" the high price.  But the price that Jesus paid for us on our behalf is a gift.  And with any gift it can be either accepted or refused.  It can't be bought or resold, rather it's a gift offered to everyone personally and there is a choice to be made.  Are there conditions to the gift?  Of course.  But it's a gift nontheless.

I suppose that it's the conditions to the gift that always trips us up.  This ties into the concepts of theology that I want to discuss from my last post.  What I remember is that I wanted to have a relationship with God but on my terms.  I sat in church as a 13 year old listening to a pastor tell the congregation that all we had to do was confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  When he told everyone to keep their eyes closed and bow their heads as to not embarrass the ones that wanted to step forward, I raised my hand and declared my need for Jesus.  I prayed along with the pastor the words that he prayed.  But somewhere between saying the words and believing those words, I didn’t quite make it all the way.  True effectual change never took place.

I sincerely believe I wanted a relationship with Jesus but I don’t think I was ready to let Him have control of my life.  That’s the theology part that I had a problem with.  This is where the discussion can get particularly deep and, quite frankly, overwhelming.  Take, for example, the discussion of Jesus is Lord: the story continues at “Open Source Theology.”  For the average person to read their theological position on Jesus being Lord it becomes such a daunting thing that it would be easy to say “forget it.”  However, if we miss this point we miss a very important part.  We need to understand what God expects of us when He offers the gift of His Son as the propitiation of our sins.  (Propitiation simply means “…the turning away of wrath by an offering…For the Christian the propitiation was the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. It turned away the wrath of God so that He could pass "over the sins previously committed" (Romans. 3:25).”)

Let’s try to simplify the idea of Jesus as Lord with an analogy.  When I stepped forward in church I either didn’t fully understand what I needed to do or I just wasn’t ready to accept the fact that I would have to give up my life and how I wanted to live it.  That’s the problem I think that most people have.  We see this every day with church-going people and quite frankly it is very confusing to non-church-goers.  It’s obvious to many people that just by going to church that it doesn’t change a person’s behavior.  They see the hypocrisy.  The church-goers talk the talk but in the day to day living they act, talk and behave no differently than the rest of the world.

My life wasn’t different either.  I sinned as flippantly and carelessly as I have ever done before.  I lied, I stole, I cheated, hated, coveted, and on and on and on.  At times I could see my life spiraling out of control.  And this was years after I “confessed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” But darn it, I just wasn’t ready yet to surrender to Jesus.  I still wanted my way.  And I still had to make more mistakes, obviously, before I could admit that I was wrong.  If I would have been honest with myself I would have admitted that I wasn’t in control of anything.  That was the irony.  I didn’t want to give up control of my life to Jesus so that He could be Lord but I wasn’t in control anyway.  It was a mirage.

God was extremely patient with me.  And He still is today.  He brought me to the point where I realized that I was dependent on Him.  Somehow, some way, God got it through my thick skull that I needed to surrender my will to His.  That’s the whole point of making Jesus Lord of my life.  I had to decide that I wasn’t going to live my life any longer according to the flesh (my way) but commit myself to living according to the Spirit (God’s way).  I had to accept the fact that if I wanted Jesus that I was going to need to die to self and live for Christ.

All along in this discussion I’ve been trying to talk about the solution to sin, which to me is both making Jesus Lord and Savior of your life.  However, I also think it’s important that we understand not only the “what” to the question but also the “why.”  Why would God do this?  Why as Judge of mankind would He provide an escape to His just and absolute wrath?  In a nutshell it’s because He wants to.  But that’s too simplistic.  It all comes down to the fact that He is God and Creator of all things.  The answer revolves around the fact that His purpose is to bring glory to Himself.  We were created for His purposes – this purpose which was to display His lovingkindness and mercy through His Son Jesus.  Romans 9:22-23 “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—” Jesus, then, made it possible by becoming a sacrifice for those who would believe and put their faith in Him.

On this same thought, for many Christians the answer to the why would be because God loves us.  That statement that God loves us is certainly true and I will not say that is not a reason.  But we have to remember that why God provided a way for us to be saved is not exclusively because of us.  That would exalt mankind to a level that we’re not intended to be on.  God loves us, yes.  But God loves us because of who He is.  He is a God of love and mercy.  If you want to get a clear picture of God’s character and attributes, check out the book of 1 John.

So where are you today?  Are you trying to hold on to what you have…meaning are you still trying to be lord in your own life?  Are you trying to live life on your own terms?  For many people, they might say that their lives are going along just fine.  Being in control and in charge of their own lives is working for them.  But deep down, if they’re honest with themselves, they would have to admit that there is something missing.

Seriously, if you have everything that you want in life, what does that mean for you without Jesus?  Can you take your stuff with you when you die?  Do you know for certain what death means for you?  Satan, and the world, will fill your head with all kinds of lies.  He would say that you should live this life without any thought of the future or consequences of actions.  King Solomon wrote a book in the Bible called Ecclesiastes, which consists largely of reflections on the vanity of human life.  Look at what Solomon said here:

16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

It truly would be a sad thing if this is all that life brought.  But now consider the words of the Apostle Paul.  In his reflections, he was pondering the life of a Christian…one who surrendered to Christ as Lord and Savior and this is what he had to say:

18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Paul didn’t find the life as a Christian something to be pitied, rather he went on to exclaim that those who are children of God DO have something to look forward to:  being raised from the dead just as our Savior has!  The rest of 1 Corinthians 15 talks about this resurrection body.  It’s certainly something to look forward to!

So what about you?  The truth is there is an eternity.  It’s either eternal life with Christ or eternal death forever separated from God.  The question is where do you want to spend it?

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Picture from Creationswap

Just what do you know about sin?  That may be a stupid question to some but given the percentage of the world’s population that has never stepped inside a church it has to be assumed that there are those who have no concept about sin and what it means.  I, for one, didn’t understand it in my younger years.  And ironically, my family was somewhat religious and went to church every Sunday.  But my ignorance may not have been completely the church’s fault.  I was a very restless and inattentive child.  But the fact remains is that I grew up into adolescence without a firm understanding of sin, its affects or its consequences.

This observation, however, eventually raised some other questions for me.  Like what did I know or not know?  What did I understand?  I heard of Jesus, and knew about Him, obviously.  But did I understand what He did for me, and for the world, on the cross?  Did I have any concept of this idea of transgressing against God?

I do remember when I was 13 going through something called catechism.  I didn’t understand what it was at the time but what I know is that my knowledge of church, the Bible and even God was very little.  I couldn’t even tell you where certain books of the Bible were.  But it was during this period in my life that I slowly began to ask questions and gain some understanding into this thing called sin.  God was slowly at work on my heart even at that age.

Now when I mentioned catechism, you may have thought that I was referring to the Catholic church.  It wasn’t, however, but a branch of Catholicism.  It was at a Lutheran church that my family attended and where I eventually was confirmed.  From what I know, the Lutherans are a branch off the Catholic church which split as a result of Martin Luther and the Reformation.  The problem with Lutheran theology is that different divisions evolved from Martin Luther’s teachings and much of what we see today is nowhere reminiscent of its original concept.

There’s not much point to this explanation other than to help you understand the process by which I came to understand this thing called sin.  This period of time was also a particularly disturbing part of my life.  The irony is that I was going through a stage when I was rebellious and getting in trouble a lot.  (The irony being that I was sinning without knowing what it was.)  I remember it was after this time that my mom sought to get me involved in church; a different church from which I grew up.  It was non-denominational and its teaching was much different from what I’d heard before.  It was then that I heard the Gospel message.  And it was then that I also heard about sin and what it meant.

Can I honestly say that the Lutheran church I attended never explained the concept of sin and how it separated me from God?  I don’t think I can but it’s clear that if they did teach this then it completely missed my attention.  It may not have been something they emphasized.  Back then when I heard the word sin and how Jesus died for my sin it was puzzling to me.  Weird ideas would come to mind like, “What was sin?  And why do I need sin that Jesus would die for them?”  Did you catch that?  I thought sin was something that Jesus died for so I could have it.

Years passed however.  The revelation of what sin really was and the fact that Jesus died on the cross as the propitiation for my sins still wasn’t enough to get my attention.  Maybe there were concepts of theology that I still didn’t understand.  In fact, I know that’s true.  I’ll get into that more the next time.  But I also think I wasn’t ready to admit my condition and give myself over to God.

The issue that I think we need to resolve here is this – the reality of sin, what it is and what it does.  The thing is that if one doesn’t truly understand that there’s a problem, why would he/she begin to look for a solution?  And sin is a problem.  A serious problem.  What’s disturbing is that the world doesn’t even realize the depth of the seriousness or severity of sin.  Often we hear people joking about it as it’s some dirty joke or some dirty little secret.  So let’s identify sin before we go any further.


As defined by The Free Dictionary
1. A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate.
2. Theology
a. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.
b. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience.
3. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.
intr.v. sinned, sin·ning, sins
1. To violate a religious or moral law.
2. To commit an offense or violation.

As defined by Oxford Dictionaries
    an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law: a sin in the eyes of God [mass noun]: the human capacity for sin
    an act regarded as a serious or regrettable fault, offence, or omission: he committed the unforgivable sin of refusing to give interviews
verb (sins, sinning, sinned)
[no object]
    commit a sin: I sinned and brought shame down on us
    (sin against) offend against (God, a person, or a principle): Lord, we have sinned against you

As good as those two definitions are I believe that the following definition gives more clarity on the subject.


As defined by by Richard Wagner

Sin is any deliberate action, attitude, or thought that goes against God. You may think of sin as an obvious act, such as murder, adultery, or theft. Although that's true, sin is also wrongdoing that's far subtler and even unnoticeable at times, such as pride, envy, or even worry. Sin includes both things you shouldn't have done, but did (sins of commission) and things you should've done, but didn't (sins of omission).

The issue that most of us have is that we generally think of ourselves as good people.  And from a human perspective that may be true.  We can all show merits of goodness.  In fact, when we look back we probably would say that most of the good in our lives outweigh the bad.  The real issue, however, is that God doesn’t look at us with the same weights or measurements as we do.  God’s standard is perfection.  But what is perfection?  What is this standard that God uses?  Inherently, we all understand what this is to a degree.  Think about it – don’t we all have a conscience that tells us right from wrong?  Sure we do.  God gave it to us and we were born with it.  It’s just that with some, they do what is wrong so often and with no regard that their consciences are seared (1 Timothy 4:2) or God gives them over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28).  But ultimately, all we need to do is look to His Word (the Bible) and to His Son (Jesus Christ).  It’s by looking to the life of Jesus that we find the one and only Person that lived a perfect and sinless life.

So what does God see when He looks at the rest of us?  What He sees is rebelliousness, lawlessness and a complete disregard for Him as the Supreme Authority of heaven and earth.  We do things that God finds repulsive.  We lie, we steal, we covet, we do things that hurt other people and mostly because we are selfish and self-centered.  If it weren’t for His patience and longsuffering, God would have given up on us a long time ago.  I even think there are far more people today that dismiss the notion that God is even real or present.  This act alone causes problems between man and God that lays the groundwork for God’s wrath.  Mankind tends to have different views than God…false views that ultimately lead to our destruction.

If there is any doubt about what I’m saying read Psalm 14:1-3:

The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
    on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
    any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.

How many “fools” are there?  Sadly, all of us.  Pay attention to Romans 3:10-18:

10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Going back to the definition that Richard Wagner provided previously, we need to read it again and understand sin and how we are all guilty as a result of it.   It’s clear that in these previous passages that God views humankind as sinners.  But the sin that is even more grievous than pride, envy, murder, theft and the like is the sin of turning away from God.  Our problem, the human condition, is that we somehow believe we are capable of saving ourselves.  We think that we are self-sufficient and that our righteousness (or good acts) shows some merit to God.  These passages, however, paint a much different picture.  Don’t you see the part where God says He looks to see if there are any who understand and seek Him?  The passage from Romans answers that question and God says, “…there is no one who seeks [Him,]…not even one.”

Sin has a very damaging effect on our souls.  It not only puts us at odds with God (as the Bible says in Colossians 1:21), but it deceives us at the same time (Romans 7:11).  This is a serious problem.  Why?  Already we see that God’s standards are different from our own, but what does that matter?  What can sin do to us?  Sin, my friend, is the catalyst of God’s wrath.  God cannot tolerate sin because He is holy!  This statement may not mean much to you or me but God’s holy nature is such that because of sin there must be judgment.  And this kind of judgment is not the kind to be taken lightly.  Unlike the court systems of our world, God’s judgment is final and eternal.  It will be swift and it will be severe.  The Bible describes it like this:

The Judgment of the Dead

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is the problem that the world is in.  But that doesn’t have to be the end.  God can change our path and destination.  It’s only by the grace of God that He would reveal our sinful nature, help us to understand this and even with us face the problem head-on.  The question is why would He do this?  Why would He help us, sinners and enemies of God, find a way to be saved?!?!  That is a good question and one I intend to help answer next time.

In the meantime, pray.  Pray that God would open your heart and eyes and reveal His truth to you.  Pray that He would help you understand how you have sinned against Him personally.  Pray that God would give you a heart and desire to begin the process of repentance and forgiveness.  (Repentance simply means seeing sin the same way God does and making a conscious decision to turn from it and turn to Him.  GotQuestions?org states repentance is, “…a change of mind that results in a change of action.”)  And pray that God would give you the faith to believe.  Believe it or not, if you are doing any of this it is God who initiated the process and it is God that will help you through it.  He is the Author and Perfector of our faith!

“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile —the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Coming Under Authority

Coming Under Authority

What comes to mind when you think of “authority?”  Is it the local law enforcement?  Is it your boss or supervisor at work?  How about the government, such as the President of the United States?  The word authority probably conjures up some picture of what your experience with authority might be.

You, perhaps, might be given authority if you’re a supervisor at work.  As a mom or dad, you also exert a certain amount of authority over your children.  Believe it or not, even if you work in a place of employment and you direct and guide customers to receive their goods and services you also exhibit a certain amount of authority.  For example, if you are a waitress and direct a customer to sit at a table you are using the authority that you were given by your employer to take this particular action.

Authority, however, doesn’t always carry a positive connotation.  Every one of us, perhaps, has a memory of some type of authority that has affected us negatively.  Maybe it was a teacher who “had it in for you” and treated you badly.  You might still be carrying those scars today into adulthood.  It could have been your father who was MIA (missing in action.)  Though this kind of affect from authority takes on a different perspective it still had/has a profound effect on you.

Authority is a power of influence that was instituted by God.  In fact, God is the Ultimate Authority over life and over each one of us.  Authority takes on different meanings and is important to understand if we’re to see authority as God intended.  Authority, as defined by The Free Dictionary, is as follows:

a. The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge.
b. One that is invested with this power, especially a government or body of government officials: land titles issued by the civil authority.
2. Power assigned to another; authorization: Deputies were given authority to make arrests.
3. A public agency or corporation with administrative powers in a specified field: a city transit authority.
a. An accepted source of expert information or advice: a noted authority on birds; a reference book often cited as an authority.
b. A quotation or citation from such a source: biblical authorities for a moral argument.
5. Justification; grounds: On what authority do you make such a claim?
6. A conclusive statement or decision that may be taken as a guide or precedent.
7. Power to influence or persuade resulting from knowledge or experience: political observers who acquire authority with age.
8. Confidence derived from experience or practice; firm self-assurance: played the sonata with authority.

So how important is authority?  Or to put it another way, what happens when authority is used incorrectly?  Authority has such a significant effect on society that if abused it can cause irreparable harm.  Given this fact authority is often viewed badly.  We may even rebel against authority.  Many people in history have been given certain notoriety because of their complete disregard and disdain for authority.  This is particularly true in times and places when authority was corrupt.  You may think of the old Wild West in the United States back in the 1800s.  Or maybe the mobs and gangs of Chicago in the early to mid-1900s.  Whatever your thoughts or memories, abuse of authority has often resulted in an unpopular opinion.

Although authority is often abused, does that give us just cause to rebel against said authority?  In our minds we may think so.  If you’re a citizen of the United States you may regard your right as an American as a reason to rebel against authority.  If things aren’t going the way that you think it should go you may speak out harshly against the government because they’re not doing their job.  You may say that you’re a registered voter and you’re the one that gave that power or authority to the public officials.

As Christians, this is where I think we need to be careful in understanding our proper role in God’s purposes and plans.  In studying Romans 13: 1-7, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that God is the One who has not only established the role of authority but has placed the ones who are in authority.  This is perhaps one of the more difficult aspects to grasp.  How could God have placed someone like Adolf Hitler as ruler and leader of the German people?  Or someone like the Emperor Nero during the time of the early church?

These are difficult questions that we may not completely understand.  However, I believe we need to wrestle with these questions under the lenses of a Christian worldview.  One thing that comes to mind is the fact that we live with sin natures in a sinful world.  In a perfect world without sin, authority would be perfect as well.  The moment sin entered the picture it changed everything.  The reason perhaps that authority is often corrupted and abused is to help us as a people to understand that our most pressing and desperate need is a Savior.  If our lives were left without problems and struggles and persecutions, would we naturally turn to God to save us from our most pressing problem – sin?

Let’s first look at the passage for Romans 13: 1-7:

Submission to Governing Authorities

1 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. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Notice in the first verse that “there is no authority except that which God has established.”  Clearly, as believers we are to submit to these authorities, whether good or bad.  Paul lists out some reasons why we should obey the authorities that seem logical.  He even tells us that if we rebel against these authorities that we are in effect rebelling against God.  But also notice that Paul doesn’t condition this command by stating that we should submit to the authorities only if we agree with them.  Or submit when there are good kings and rulers.  No, Paul doesn’t state that.  But what he does say is that “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.”

Many times throughout the Scriptures we have examples of God’s people submitting to authority even when those in authority were undeserving.  Joseph rose through the ranks of authority and was given authority under the rule of Pharaoh in Egypt.  David submitted to King Saul even though Saul sought to kill him.  Daniel was even subject to King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon that took the Israelites captive.  Jesus submitted Himself even under the authority of Pontius Pilate, although Jesus had every right to rebel because He was completely innocent.  The apostles during the time of the early church submitted to the governing authorities of the Emperor Nero, a vicious ruler and persecutor of Christians at the time.

But we also see a glaring example of what happens when we rebel against God and His authority.  What happened to the Israelites after God rescued them from the hands of the Egyptians?  He brought them out to the desert.  It was during this time that the Israelites complained, murmured and grumbled against God.  Instead of inheriting the promise that God would give them a land of milk and honey, they incurred God’s wrath.  Those that lived during that time for 40 years died wandering out in the desert.  Why?  One of the reasons is a complete disregard for God’s authority over them.

Another thing that we see is that as Christians how do we respond to abusive authority?  When faced with the question of obeying authorities that are overstepping their power, do we obey God or man?  We see this question raised to Peter when he and the apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin.  When the issue was to obey man’s laws when they contradicted God’s commands, Peter says this, “We must obey God rather than men.”  Even Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had this to say to the ruler Nebuchadnezzar when confronted with worshiping a false idol, which they were commanded to do:

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

It’s important that if we are to follow God, we need to understand from a Biblical standpoint how and when to submit to authorities and unjust laws.  It may not always be clear cut.  It may often take prayer and spiritual discernment.  But the general rule of thumb must be that unless it completely contradicts God’s Word, we should submit to those authorities that God has placed over us.

In addition, when we’re the ones in authority we should examine our own hearts and motives.  Think about the fact that God is our Ultimate Authority.  When God is the One who has given us authority, we should exercise this authority with caution.  Even the centurion who came to Jesus asking for healing for his servant understood this concept.  He understood that though he has authority that he too was a man under authority.  (emphasis mine)

The Faith of the Centurion

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

The question for us today is how do we submit to authority?  Do we submit to President Obama when he purposely enforces laws that go against our conscious such as abortion and same-sex marriage?  I would say that in every situation where God has given President Obama authority we should respect him as our President and not speak ill-will of him.  In fact, we should pray that God grant him wisdom and understanding.  We want him to do well because the country will do well if he does what is right.  But in areas where laws obviously contradict God’s commands, we respectively state that we must obey God rather than man.

What happens if we incur some persecution in response to obeying God?  Though Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego obeyed God, they were still thrown into the fire.  They submitted to the consequences of their choice.  We, too, need to be aware and willing to submit to the consequences of following Christ.  Will it be unpopular?  Will it cause pain?  May we end up in prison or endure hardship?  All of these are possible scenarios.  But we must remember that we are witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ.  It may be through these circumstances that unbelievers witness our obedience (even unto death) that they may be won to Christ.

Jesus often said that there is a cost of following Him and being His disciple.  He emphasized that we need to count the cost and consider the consequences of our choices.  Jesus understood the cost and even went to the cross on our behalf.  He endured hardship, suffering and even death.  Jesus pointed out in John 15:20, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”

Are you willing to follow Christ?  Are you willing to submit to authority?