Today’s reading is Matthew 7:28-29 and Psalm 91.
I’m a big sports fan, but I don’t listen to sports talk radio. Why? I just don’t really see the point. All they do is just talk about their opinions on something that just happened in the past…a game just played and what a player or coach should have done or what a player or coach said after. They also talk about who they think will win an upcoming game or which player is better than the other. But, the bottom line is this…none of it matters. They don’t play the game, and they don’t have the authority to make any decisions to effect outcomes.
Matthew 7:28-29 reads…
“And when Jesus finished these saying, the crowds were astonished by his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority and not as the scribes.”
It’s almost like the people knew at this point after the Sermon on the Mount the scribes were like the sports talk radio people who could just talk and Jesus was a player or coach who could actually do something about it.
John 1:1-5 reads…
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:14 reads…
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen the glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father full of grace and truth.”
The people knew and sensed Jesus was different. They weren’t just hearing someone talk about God..they were hearing God. He had authority. They were hearing the great “I am.”
I find it very interesting John 1 refers to Jesus at “the Word.” I’m not going to claim I fully know the reason, but I think it’s because everything contained in the book we call the Word is ultimately about Him. From Genesis to Revelation, it all points to Him. And more than anything…the book we call the Word now is our living authority until He returns.
I’ve been to church my whole life and figure I’ve probably heard around 1,500 sermons in my nearly 35 years of life and not to take away from any pastors who I’ve heard preach, but you know when my relationship with God really started to grow? It was when I began to be in the Word daily (preachers and pastors did absolutely help influence adoption of this spiritual discipline). The Word guides us. The Word is our one source of truth (and grace). The Word has authority. The Word causes us to have a relationship with the Word, Jesus.
When I get lackadaisical about being in the Word and miss days, I feel empty. I feel anxious. I feel stressed. I need my GPS. I need my one source of truth and authority. I need Jesus. Then, I have confidence. Then, I have peace.
Psalm 119:105 reads..
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feed, and a light unto my path.”
Isaiah 26:3 says..
“You keep us in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.”
Let us pray…
Dear God..,,please help us to come to the Word daily as our one, true source of authority. Please help us turn to the Word to grow in our relationship and oneness with you. And thank you for sending the Word in flesh for us to see and for giving us the written Word as our guidance system until the Word returns.
**Additional thoughts- I love the accessibility we have 24/7 to the Bible through apps. However, in my humble opinion, I believe there is enhanced impact in opening the physical Bible and reading it in addition to the app or the few verses that might be referenced, and even included, right in the text of your daily devotional. When you open the actual Good Book, as opposed to an app or just reading the verses listed in the devotional or blog like this, there is something that says/feels…this is different than just another blog, app, article, or website I go to on my phone or tablet. This book is the one and only source of truth in my life. This book is the Word.
If only my faith were the size of a mustard seed. Then, I could move mountains. Nothing would be impossible. That is what Jesus tells us today in Matthew 17:20. This is difficult to believe, at best. My struggle with it has me questioning what faith is. Sure, I am familiar with the definition that is provided in Hebrews 11:1. It says that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” While this is a good definition of faith, it doesn’t help me believe that I can move a mountain. In fact, I can barely move the dining room table! What gives?
Don’t you think that this is what the disciples were dealing with? They tried and tried to drive the demon from the boy but were unable. Why not? Jesus doesn’t give them a practical answer, he simply says, “Because of your little faith.” (Matthew 17:20). The secret, he tells them, is to “have more faith.” So how is it that we get more faith?
It is helpful to look at a couple of people who have exhibited true faith. One man appears in Matthew 9. Jesus restores his sight after the man confesses his faith. Jesus affirms his faith saying, “According to your faith be it done to you” (Matthew 9:29). Another story involves a woman begging for her daughter’s healing. She worshipped and pleaded with Jesus. Finally, he responds, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15:28). There is also the centurion. He understands authority and ascribes the same to Jesus. Jesus affirms him and says, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 1:9). How is it that these people had such faith? What is the difference? The answer is found in the object of focus.
These examples reveal three traits of faith. First, the blind man confesses his belief, second, the woman worships and third, the centurion acknowledges Jesus’ authority. While these are separate and distinct traits, they have one commonality. Their focus is on Jesus. According to A.W. Tozer, “faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all.” This is clear in these three examples. When we worship, confess and concede authority to God, we cease to be important. God becomes all. Tozer continues, “Faith is a redirecting of our sight, a getting out of the focus of our own vision and getting God into focus.” The result? The work we are trying to do gets done. Not on our own behalf or for our own satisfaction, but for God’s.
What have you been diligently working on that just isn’t working? Do you have a persistent flaw that is keeping you from being the person you know God wants you to be? Tozer says to, “Stop tinkering with your soul and look away to the perfect One.”
All A.W. Tozer quotes are taken from his excellent work The Pursuit of God. Check out the FREE Kindle version!
The idea of authority is a double edge sword. We like believing there is justice in the world, some ultimate authority establishing order; but we also want to live lives of our choosing — making our own rules.
I just returned from spending most of this week in Las Vegas at a convention for the Manufactured Housing Industry (MHI). This event is really a big annual reunion for a diverse community of friends, fellow investors, home manufacturers, brokers and other service providers for an industry that provides affordable housing for approximately twenty million Americans. At an event sponsored by my incredible brokerage team, we offered clients an opportunity to drive ten of the most expensive sports cars in the world on a racing track with a personal professional driving coach; Ferarri’s, Lamborghini’s and others, you get the idea. This was sort of a drivers education for car racing. The driving coaches shared the rules of the track, the laws of physics and just in case we lost our minds, they had a brake pedal on the floor of the passenger side. We were instructed in the art of racing, when to go fast, how to go faster and how to negotiate curves at the highest possible speeds. Trust me when I say that I payed very close attention to my professional driving coach!
After five laps I was at the food truck talking with a friend about wealth and privilege. I asked him a question that popped into my head. “If you could design the perfect life for yourself — would it really be perfect?” He wasn’t sure he knew the answer. I believe we all desire the “perfect life”. The desire to find perfection is written on our hearts. But how do we find it? what are the rules, and who makes them?
If we make our own rules, aren’t we missing the opportunity to follow something better? Where do we find the rules for driving the best cars on the fast track of our lives?
I knew that in the absence of the belief in a personal God (one that’s still involved in the world He created) people often gravitate to the ideas like karma. But somehow karmic “authority” seems too vague for me even though I liked the concept. In theory, following this simple principle might even make life a little easier. If we believe that by being generally good, the universe will generally be good back to us, then we can then operate with a general, perhaps even self justified, sense of what the rules are. In this model, justice becomes more vague. The notion that someone is in charge, or that there are specific rules to follow, is more specific, more personal and more challenging. “Who said so?” and “why should I?” were my typical responses.
At times we accept the authority of science. We don’t seem to have much of a problem discovering and responding to the laws of nature as we understand them. You can choose to ignore gravity if you want, but the consequences always turn out the same.
Authority is also accepted when we want to learn a critical skill from someone who knows. If I want to learn to drive fast and safe, the importance of good instruction and understanding the rules is easy to grasp. So if we can respect the laws of physics; and advanced drivers education can be embraced by confidant adults, is it so hard to imagine that the creator of the universe might have laws for us to follow? Is it hard to grasp the possibility that there is a divine authority on how to live our lives? Might there be a more elevated definition of what it means to prosper, higher than those that the world offers us or that we can invent for ourselves?
God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. -Psalm 53:2
As I have come to have a personal relationship with God, I have come to understand the power and authority of God and how important it is in guiding my life. But the crazy thing is this; it was by experiencing God’s incredible love, through His amazing grace, that I was able to discover His awesome power and authority. God is the fairest of judges and the ultimate authority over heaven and earth. He does not condemn His children by grace. He loves and empowers and encourages and directs our steps along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He has made a way for all of us to return to Him, to return to our rightful place, to fulfill our destiny. God offers redemption to all. And through Jesus Christ by grace we are given the power to live extraordinary lives, by receiving God’s Holy Spirit. Faith in God offers us lives in the spiritual fast lane. Lives of adventure and challenge and of the greater fulfillment than we could ever imagine. Will we listen and learn?
Ladies and gentlemen it’s time to start your spiritual engines! Amen.