Monday, July 13, 2009

Good Question on Authority

I preached yesterday on Mark 1:21-45, where the Gospel of Mark establishes the authority of Jesus over law, demons, sickness, customs, and cultures. Jesus is portrayed in one of his typical ministry days, traveling to preach and teach about the Kingdom of God and healing people as He goes. I made the case yesterday that this passage was primarily teaching us about the ultimate authority of Jesus and the way He used this authority. He used His authority to serve those under Him, not oppress or control them. I challenged everyone to think about submission to Jesus in real terms (how is my attitude toward His commands?) and to think about their own authority as a stewardship issue (temporarily granted to me as a gift from Jesus) that we will be held accountable for. I got the following question from the comment-cards yesterday:

If you choose to willfully submit to God does that mean your heart has to be in it? Doesn't God honor and respect and bless the submission & possibly change your heart to match the obedience?

The key word in the question is the word "willfully." This is an attitude of the heart. While we may desire to sin and disobey God, we choose to submit to His commands with a willful heart. When I give my kids instructions for them to obey, I can tell whether they are willing to follow what I am asking OR if they are doing what I ask just because they are afraid of discipline. I can tell if the obedience is willful or not. I think the same is true with God. While I, as a parent, am glad when my kids obey (whatever their motive), I am most blessed by them when they obey with a joyful heart. The difference is not the obedience (which is the same), but the motive behind the obedience. One kind is driven by guilt and fear, the other by joy and trust.

While obedience pleases God, the Scriptures continue to point out to us that God wants our hearts - He wants us to trust Him and trust that what He has commanded is good for us. Obedience without a pure heart has the potential to turn us into Pharisees, where the outside of the cup is clean, but the inside is dark and hard toward the ways of God. This is why we must continue to search our heart. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. David says in Psalm 51:16-17 that God does not delight in empty sacrifices, but in a "broken and contrite heart." In other words, we don't want to end up in the place where we are on the receiving end of Jesus' words from Isaiah 29:13 which say that we are drawing near to God with our words, but we are far from Him with our hearts.

I agree in principle that we should obey even when we don't understand and even when our heart is not fully in it. But we should quickly ask the Lord to change our hearts, lest we become religious people who look holy on the outside, but are really only hiding our deceitful hearts.

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