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Go aheadand question authority

January 15, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Pastor Chuck DeVane

Special to The Sentinel-Record

And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me."

-- Mark 11:27-30, ESV

I grew up in the '70s when bumper stickers boomed. My friends and I even sold them to finance our senior trip. Sometimes you could see the entire back of cars covered with them. One of the most popular bumper-stickers in that time period read "Question Authority."

Why would you want to question authority? The better question is, why not? We humans are rebels at heart and we don't like authority or authoritative people. So we rebel against our parents, our schoolteachers, our pastors, even the legal authorities, while Pink Floyd plays "Another Brick in the Wall" in the background.

But not all rebellion or questioning of authority is childish or sinful. There is a conscientious questioning of authority. The Protestant Reformation was sparked by it. The United States of America was founded upon it. Great scientific and spiritual discoveries have been caused by it. Often the right thing to do is to question authority, just like the religious leaders did in Jesus' day.

The religious rulers were right to question Jesus' authority. We boo and hiss when "the Pharisees" enter the picture, but remember that public opinion in Jesus' day declared them to be the good guys. It was a good and fair question, even though it was asked with dim and darkened hearts. I really don't think they wanted to know the truthful answer. It would have meant surrendering or submitting their authority to Jesus, and their stiff necks and knees were incapable of bowing. Hearing their question, and knowing their hearts, Jesus answered their question with a question.

Jesus was right to question John the Baptist's authority. With infinite wisdom, Jesus tied the question of His authority to another question, as He often did.

Without going into too much detail, let us summarize the message of John the Baptist. He preached repentance from sin and selfishness. Everything that John preached was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and everything that Jesus Christ fulfilled was written in Old Testament prophesy, a field in which the Pharisees should have been experts. So, was John's message and ministry from mere human invention; or, was it from the one true and living God?

They had no answer. This is the precise point at which false religion fails. It cannot answer the great questions about God. False, pharisaical, legalistic, power-hungry religion is an outward shell made to make man look good and make God manageable. What we need instead of mere religion is, in C.S. Lewis' words, "Mere Christianity."

Go ahead and question God's authority. The great question of this text is, "Who is Jesus and should He have authority over my life?" God is big enough to take your questions and He is gracious enough to have already supplied the answers.

I love the questions posed by the late, great James Montgomery Boice in one of his last books: Who is Jesus? What did He do? Why did He do it? What does that require of me? Ask God and ask yourself those questions, then seek answers in the Bible and a biblical church.

If the gospel and the word of God are true, then Jesus Christ is Lord. If He is our Lord, He has ultimate, unquestionable authority in our lives. What He says to do we will do, where He says to go we will go, what He says to stop we will stop, what He says to give we will give. When He says to worship and pray we will worship and pray, when He says to preach and teach we will preach and teach, wherever He leads we will go!

So go ahead and question authority. We will all live with the answers we accept. We will live with them in this life, and the life to come.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, 5963 Central Ave. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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