Controversial Jesus #3 - Authority

Dr. Kurt Bjorklund and Emily DeAngelo look at who we look to for approval and direction in our lives and how we can center that authority in Jesus in our lives.

Message Transcript

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Good morning. Welcome again to Orchard Hill. Happy Mother's Day. Hey, I want to just take a moment and mention that we had said last week that the dedication of the Strip District could've been last Wednesday, and that didn't happen. Now you don't need to check your emails or website because that campus is meeting at 1620 Penn Avenue today as we speak having their first services in that space. That's a spectacular thing.

This Wednesday will be the dedication time, so 7:00 Wednesday, 1620 Penn Avenue in the Strip District. This is a building that was St. Elizabeth's Church for years and then became a bar, a concert venue, a party place and now is being reconverted to a place of worship. Next weekend will be the grand opening. Just so many good things that are happening there. Let's just take a moment and pray for that, and then we'll jump in to today.

Father, we thank you just for what you've done in the last several years of praying, working, sacrificing, waiting for this space to be ready. Father, we pray that literally thousands of people in the City of Pittsburgh would come and encounter Jesus Christ through the ministry of what happens in that place through the people whose lives are changed. God, we pray our city would never be the same because of what takes place there. We pray this in Jesus name, amen.

This morning, we are continuing as we journey through the Gospel of John together. We started at the beginning of the year with a series that we called the idea around the... I forgot what the first series was called all of a sudden, but it was a series about Jesus because we talk about Jesus here, and Jesus, how he's unexpected. That's what it was. Boy, that was a moment. Unexpected Jesus and how Jesus is often unexpected.

Now we have moved into a second part of John, Chapter 5 and following that we've said he's controversial because Jesus experienced a great deal of opposition in the Gospel of John. The opposition of that day isn't that different than the opposition that so often encounters Jesus Christ here today. Today, we've come to Chapter 5, Verse 31 through the end of the chapter, and this is really about the authority of Jesus.

Now, if you look at your little heading, which are not inspired in your Bible, it says, "Testimonies about Jesus," and the testimonies are really about the deity of Jesus, about why Jesus is God. It's really about his authority and different people or different means giving testimony to Jesus. Here's why this is somewhat controversial. That is there will always be a controversy around what has authority in our culture and in our lives. If we get authority wrong, what happens is then everything is off. In fact, having something off just slightly can make it off substantially.

I heard a story about a florist who got confused on a floral order. There was a lady who was opening a new business, and then there was funeral. He sent his floral orders to the wrong place, so to the one, to the lady who was opening a new business, it said, "I'm sorry for your loss." She was a little upset. She called the florist and said, "How could you do this? It's a joyous occasion. It's not a loss. It's a good thing." He said, "I'm really sorry," but imagine how poor this went over at the funeral where it said, "Good luck in your new location."

Just being off a little can get us off a lot. When we consider this, this being Mother's Day, you know this if you're a parent, because if you have kids, one of the things that you care deeply about is who they listen to, who influences them. One of the things you spend time doing is trying to influence the people who influence them, trying to make sure that they have a sense of good direction in their life. But this isn't just a kid issue. This is something that goes on throughout all the days of our lives where we decide constantly what will be our authority, what will control our direction in life. What you decide about this will make a huge difference in the trajectory of your life. I think that this passage, even though it's about the testimonies to Jesus deity, shows us some of the alternatives to having Jesus as our authority, that we can choose in our lives. I'd like to take just a few moments to walk through these with you.

The first is we can choose to have an authority in our lives that's centered in ideas. In other words, we can have authority in ideas. We see this in Verse 37 and 28. It says, "In the father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent." When you first read that, you might say, "Well, okay. This is just talking about this testimony and never believing, but here's what it's saying, and that is Jesus is the authority, but you choose to center your authority in something else, in some other form or idea. Without any question, we all center authority in something, and often, it is ideas. We may not name them. We may not articulate them, but we all have authority in something.

But here's the problem with centering your authority in ideas. That is when you center your authority in current ideas, those ideas change, and they're malleable to our time and to our own preferences. Now, let me prove this to you through something. That is the sitcom Friends. If you've ever watched this sitcom, it was popular in the '90s. If you're younger, you may not be aware of this, but it's on Netflix. It's on all the time. In fact, one of my sons has been into it, so I've walked into the room many times and have Friends there. Besides the antiquated style of 20 years ago, which is actually funny to watch, there are some values that have changed in our culture because sitcoms, in some ways, are some of the most clear reflections of what we value as a society.

Let me give you just one example. As I've walked into the room a few times seeing that playing, one of the things that's obvious to me that in the '90s, according to sitcom culture, it was okay to mock homosexuality. You won't find a sitcom that does that today because everyone embraces it and says, "This is a normal, acceptable lifestyle." Now, their mocking was not like obscene mocking, but today, you wouldn't do that.

Now, I think that's probably an improvement. I'm not saying homosexuality is right before God, but what I'm saying is that to say we don't mock people for something that's true about them is a good change, but here's what's happened, and that is if you simply say, "I take the ideas that are prevalent in my culture, and I make them my authority," you will always be changing, you will always be adapting. You will never have anything that is solid authority in your life.

Let me give you another example. A singer, Bono, who, Bono, who is... Bono, Bono, I'm struggling with my words here. Bono, who is lead singer for U2 had founded Charity Foundation with a man named William McGlashan Jr. There's an article in Vanity Fair about this. William McGlashan Jr. said this in an interview. He said, "Capitalism is the best tool to get people out of extreme poverty." Then just a little later, he said this. The same interview, he said, "But it's also a wild beast that has chewed up a lot of lives."

The reason Vanity Fair was writing an article about William McGlashan Jr. and Bono is because they were looking at their lives because William McGlashan Jr.'s one of the parents who now is being implicated in this whole paying to get his kids into a higher education institution. Here's my point: Malleable ideals, I believe that capitalism helps everybody get ahead. I believe that it rises the level of our culture, but I can use it to my own advantage, even if it hurts other people. Do you see it? Your ideas, if your authority is based on what you think is best, will be changing, and it will sometimes be about you.

We can have ideas as our authority, or we can have traditions as our authority. We can have authority in traditions. We see this in Verse 39 and 40. It says, "You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me and have life." Jesus says, "You study the scriptures, and they all testified in me," in fact, he points this out a little later in the same section because he talks about Moses and how Moses and the scriptures around Moses point to him, but his point here is he says, "You study these things, and these things do not take you to me." In other words, you study what is traditional, and you come to different conscious.

Sometimes, traditions are really helpful because in community, we can come to understand something and say, "This is our traditional understanding of it, and this is good," but we have to be careful with traditions because sometimes traditions cannot be reflective of God's actual authority. We don't need to look any further than the church's history around race and around slavery to say that that's true because the church for a generation or longer said, "We believe that this is okay." It can happen personally where you take in traditions, and you say, "Because this has been a traditional understanding, this makes sense to me."

I heard about one lady who whenever she would make a ham, she would cut the ends of the ham off and put it in her pot. After a lot of years of doing that, her daughter asked and said, "Well, how do you cut the ends off the ham?" She said, "I don't really know. That's the way my mom did it." She went and asked her mom why she did it. She said, "Well, I don't know. It's just the way I've always done it." She went and asked her mom, who was still living, why she cut the ends off the ham. She said, "Oh, when your father and I were first married, we had a really small pot, and the ham never fit in the pot, so we cut the ends off the ham."

See, we can have traditions, so we don't even know why we have traditions anymore, rules of thumb that we say this is how I live or how I go about thinking about things. If it's, becomes our authority, our ideas, or our traditions, then all of a sudden, we are subject to all kinds of ideas.

Now, my guess is that as I talk about ideas and traditions, some of us will say, "Yeah, I get that a little bit," but here's where I think this really maybe gets more personal, and that is some of us will center our authority in other people. Now, few of us would want to admit this because, again, we think this is a teenager problem. We think this is about middle schoolers and high schoolers who say, "All of my authority's centered in what somebody else says," but we see it here in Verse 41 and following. He says, "I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me, but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, since you accept glory from one another and do not seek glory that comes from the only God."

What does he say? He says you take glory from people, in other words, you live for the acceptance that people give you, but you won't take the authority that comes in me or in God. Again, this shows up in a lot of different ways in our lives. For some of us, what will happen maybe without even being aware of it, is we'll start to live our lives for what people think about us. We'll buy certain things because of how it makes us feel around other people or for the approval or disapproval of some group of people. Some of is, it'll be our mom, our dad. In fact, we have a counseling center here, by the way, at our church. That's a joke. It's actually not a joke. It's true, but it's a joke on the heels of if you're living for the approval of your mom and dad, or disapproval, because what we'll do subconsciously is we'll say, "I want this person or these people to think well of me or to not disapprove of me."

There was an article this week in the USA Today around the issue of moms. Here's what this article argued. It was called Why American Moms Are Seriously Struggling. It said that in 1975, 50% of moms stayed at home with their children. Today, 70% of both parents work, so only 30% of either moms or dads stay home exclusively with their kids. In other words, there's a lot more people trying to balance work and parenting than before. Then they said only half of grandparents live within five hours of their kids. In other words, not only are more parents working, but more parents have less support of the extended family around them, but then they said this. They said that one of the reasons moms are struggling with depression is because of the comparisons that they experience on social media.

It's common today to blame everything on social media. I don't think that that's probably a healthy thing, but here was the point. What happens for many moms, according to this article, is they go online, and they post things to say, "Look at me. I was able to work all week. I was able to have a perfect family picture, to have a perfect meal, to go on a perfect vacation, and still manage to look like this." If they post it well enough, then they get a bunch of likes, a bunch of thumbs ups, and people are saying, "You're awesome. You rock." What happens is, it becomes a self-fulfilling "look at how much I do," and they have to keep topping it, and then they feel bad when they see other people's posts.

Don't just think that's a mom thing. That's a man thing. That's a woman thing. That's a human thing, not just on social media, but in every arena of our lives to say, "I care what other people think." If you source your authority for life in what other people think, you will find that you run yourself ragged trying to keep up with the image that you want to portray. Now, most of us know that that's not sustainable, but it doesn't mean that we're not susceptible to it.

Here's another authority source that we can have. If it isn't ideas, if it isn't traditions, if it isn't people, many of us will source our authority in ourselves. In fact, this is the most American way that we do this. We see this in Verse 39, and then again in 43. Says, "You study the scriptures diligently because you think in them you have eternal life." These are the very scriptures that testify about me. He says, "You study the scriptures, and yet, you disregard them. In other words, you become your own source of authority, Verse 43. "I've come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me, but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him."

Again, what he says here very simply is what you tend to do is you tend to say, "I will be the arbitrator, the authority in my own life," and this is clearly the American way today. Here's how this is usually portrayed. Usually, somebody else will say, "You be the authority of you." What people will do is they'll say, "You know what you need to do? You need to follow your heart." Every time you hear "follow your heart," what you're hearing is the wording that says you be in charge of you. Now, this shows up in movies, shows up in talk shows, shows up with people talking about their successes. In movies, what happens is you'll see a movie, and somebody will be confused and not know what to do, and then somebody will come along who's wise and has been there. They'll say, "What you need to do is follow your heart." They'll use some other language. They don't always say, "Follow your heart."

Then what happens is they'll start to follow their heart, and all of a sudden, the movie changes. The field becomes beautiful, full of grass, and they walk into it and the success of their life. You know what I'm talking about. You've seen this movie. Or you'll find somebody who talks about their success in life, and they'll say, "I was struggling until I decided that I needed to follow my heart, and once I followed my heart, then everything worked out in my life."

Here's the challenge of this. Certainly you follow your heart. Certainly I follow my heart. Our heart is the seed of our emotions. It's the seed of what we hold dear. But here's what the Bible says that our culture won't tell you. You never see this in the movie. That is Jeremiah 17:9 says, "Your heart is deceitful and wicked above all things." Here's what that means. That means if you follow your heart, you're going to some places and do some things that are detrimental to you, that are bad for people in your life, and that are not honoring to God. That's what that means. If you believe the mantra that all I need to do is get in touch with my own heart and follow my own heart, what you will do is you will make a mess of things. That's what you'll do. Again, you don't hear that. What you hear is "follow your heart and everything will work out."

Now, sometimes, following, again, your heart may, if it lines up with the authority of Jesus, be a good thing, but it doesn't always line up with the authority of Jesus. I was thinking about this and thinking about just my own heart. There are some goofy examples of this, and then maybe some more serious ones.

On the goofier side, if I want to follow my own heart, do you know what I would do when I eat every day? I would eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because I love chocolate. I would rarely eat vegetables. But you know what? I eat vegetables. I eat vegetables because I want to be healthy, so you could argue that you're actually following your heart, you're following a deeper version of your heart that says, "I'm not just following my feelings. I'm following something that actually is a deeper value." I get that, but on a more serious level, whenever you find yourself saying, "I'm just going to do what I think I should do, and that's my authority," you can land yourself in a place you don't want to go.

I remember years ago, I was taking my kids, and we had gone to one of these water parks. They were still younger than they are now. Water parks are those places where you go, you wait in long lines, you pay big money, and you get to go down a slide for just a little bit of time. You know what I'm talking about? We were at one of these water parks, and it was loaded with people. This guy who, I don't know how to say this in a way that's politically correct, this guy was large. I'm just going to say it. He was large. He was large here. He was large here. I mean, he was large. He walks up, and he jumps the line with his kids.

I'm standing here. I'm thinking, "I just waited in line." I have this little thing in me that does not like when I feel like injustice is being done, that feels a need to say something. This didn't feel right to me. It's like, you just can't walk in front of everybody. I said to him, I said, "Hey, the line's back here." This guy stands up. Did I mention he was big? He stands up. He turns toward me. He's like, "What are you going to do about it?" I came this close to letting that man destroy me.

Now, I probably acted in a way that was more godly because of his size than because of anything inside of me, but here's the truth. Years later, I tell that story, and there's a piece of me that still wants to punch that man because if I follow my heart, I say, "You don't jump in line in front of me and my kids, and I'll tell you I can't stand for that," because my heart is deceitful and wicked, and the only way that I will live in a way that's accordance with something better than just my own desires, my own heart is if I say, "I'll submit to the authority of Jesus, and I believe that ultimately this is what this is pointing to."

Again, Verse 43, "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me," so what the opposite of that? Accepting Jesus as God, as the divine being who has authority. Because the scriptures point to him, because they point to his death, his resurrection, what that means is you can say he's a Savior who's for me, he's a God who knows what's best.

In our lives, there are ideas, there are traditions, there are people, even our own heart, that will sometimes be for us and sometimes know what's best, but rarely do we get both, except in Jesus. What we can do is we can say, "Because of Jesus death on the cross, that means that he is for me, and God knows what's best. Because of that, I can say I'll bend my knee to the authority of Jesus in my life because bending my knee to the authority of Jesus in my life will be better than choosing my own path."

My question today for you is who's, or what is your authority? Is your authority rooted in people? Is it rooted in yourself? Is it rooted in ideas or traditions, or are you willing to say, "I'll bend my knee to the authority of Jesus, and even when it doesn't feel good, even when I don't like it, even when it doesn't make sense to me, I will say that he is the source of my authority and the one from whom I get my direction in life."

You see, that's controversial because even people sometimes in church, in life groups, different places will say, "Well, I know the Bible says, but you go ahead and do what feels good to you." You'll end up if you don't say and resolve to say, "I will bend my knee to the authority of Jesus," you will end up in a place that is not ultimately for your good because you do not see what God sees, and he is for you in a way that is better than what you even understand. That's what Jesus communicates through the cross and why you can bend your knee to him safely.

I'm going to pray, and then Emily DeAngelo who serves as part of our staff team here with our Women's Ministry Life Stages. She's co-director of Women's Ministry with JoAnn Adams, and the two of them have really great complementary gifts and personalities, but Emily's going to come and just help us think about how this applies in our homes how to have the authority of Jesus be general in our homes.

Father, we pray today that you would help each of us to see where we're sourcing our authority and to turn and let your son Jesus Christ be our authority. We pray this in Jesus name, amen.

Thank you.

Happy Mother's Day. Mother's Day is for all of us, really, because we all have a mom. Perhaps yours is here with you today or passed on as mine has, but we all have women who have cared for us and influenced us, women we want to honor today. One of my favorite pictures of Jesus honoring a mother is when he healed Peter's mom in a little fishing village in Galilee. This was one of the many miraculous and wondrous works that Jesus performed so that people would believe in him. I love this story of Jesus because all he did was touch Peter's mom. She was on her death bed with fever. She got up, and she made a meal, and she served her entire households. Moms are amazing.

Women who are touched and changed by Jesus are super amazing. When I think about what honoring someone looks like, I think about what submitting to the authority of Christ looks like, and I believe it starts with knowing who Jesus of the Bible really is. When we get to know him, we begin to love him. As we come to understand what he has done for us, we want to submit our lives to his plan for us. Knowing him leads to loving him, and that leads to obedience.

In the family and in the church, we have an opportunity to work together to know who Jesus is, to learn how to love him and love one another and serve one another, to learn what it means to obey him and submit to his authority. I thought about what my life has looked like when I was living by his authority, and I thought about what my life looked like when I wasn't. Became a wreck. When I first came to know Christ, I was a preteen. There was a woman in my church who spiritually mentored me. She showed me how to read the Bible and develop my new faith. She modeled for me how to read and study and then apply those truths to my life in practical and relatable ways. She spiritually mentored me in a way. That said my life on a course of seeking to know Jesus, learning how to love him and submit to his authority.

However, years later when I found myself in the early years of motherhood... My husband and I, Cory, we have five children, but the first three, Sam, Joe, and Abby Jane, they were born in less than three years. I got to the point where I was utterly and completely exhausted and overwhelmed. I was physically exhausted, mentally exhausted. I was, worst of all, spiritually exhausted. I was running on empty because I was not looking into God's word to figure out his authority in my life. I was living by my own plans. I was living by my own rules, my own desires. I chose option number four. I was following my heart.

Sure, we were going to church. We were showing up, but that was about it for me. I found that about midweek every week, I was a big, hot mess, until I had an opportunity to go to women's retreat. At that weekend retreat, we were given the gift of time to go and spend alone with a passage of scripture. That day, I chose to look at and think about and try to pray through Psalm 19. That hour changed me. It redirected me back on a path of looking into God's word to find what he wanted for my life to submit to his authority for my life. I realized that I was no longer in charge of my life. God was. It was no longer enough for me to look at his creation and marvel at his goodness for me as the beginning of Psalm 19 suggests. I needed more. I needed to look into his word to know who he is.

During that weekend in the woods of Central Pennsylvania, God ignited a spark in me that has grown into a passion for knowing him and his word. How can I even know him if I'm not reading his Bible? I believe the primary purpose of scripture is to point people to Jesus, and in an effort for our family to come to know him, we learned God's word together. We read it together, we memorize it together.

In fact, my mother-in-law came to faith in Jesus as a young mom, and then she spent most of her adult years studying the Bible, memorizing verses, learning long passages of scripture. When she developed a brain tumor, a tumor that robbed her of the ability to recall and even speak words, she remembered the scriptures. Those Bible verses were a comfort to her and to our family during her last days on earth.

Did you know that some of the ladies of Orchard Hill Church have committed to memorizing an entire Psalm this spring? Some of the are doing it with their children or with their spouses or with friends, but we're all in it together. We're studying the Psalms in Bible study, and we're sharing with one another our insights. We're figuring out together how to take the truth from the Psalms that we're learning and memorizing and turn them into prayers that we can pray.

This has been faith-building for many of us, many of us who have struggled with how to pray. Maybe some of us have lacked confidence in our prayers to God. Well, the Psalms are changing us. They are shaping the words that we have in our conversations with God. Listen to the promises of Psalm 19:7 and 8. "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart, and the commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes."

Who doesn't desire a soul revived, wisdom, joy, enlightenment? These are the promises of God when we learn and obey his word. I dare to say that some of you desire at least some of those for yourselves or for your friends and family. These benefits can be found in learning and obeying God. To me, that's what submitting to God's authority looks like. If memorization seems too daunting for you, may I suggest that you consider just reading the Bible with someone?

I'm in a life group that meets weekly, and we call our group Joy Group. In fact, there are several Joy Groups at Orchard Hill Church for women, and if you're interested in joining this type life group, please let JoAnn Adams or me know. We'd love to get you connected in this way. My Joy Group is truly life-giving to me. There's a mom in my group who has committed to reading through the Bible with a two-year reading plan with her sixth-grade son. Together, they are learning how to love and obey God. When we read the Bible with our children, we look at what the passage tells us about God, and then we consider what it tells us about Jesus because as Kurt said, all of scripture points to him and his plan of salvation for us.

In this daily reading of the Bible, this mom tells me that it takes less than half an hour each day. They get the opportunity together to come and see what Jesus has done, as John, the Gospel writer, encourages us to do again and again his Gospel. I have seen personally how the Bible comes to life for people who earnestly seek to see Jesus on every page. Then that knowledge of him, it impacts how we live, how we love him and others, how we serve others, and how we submit to his authority.

Fundamentally, God's authority, it builds us up. It doesn't tear us down. His authority gives us freedom. In my experience, when we read his word, we get to know Jesus, and we come to love him. His love for us and our love for him compels us to want to obey him. This love compels us to want to submit to his plan for our lives. Then we get to experience the freedom of knowing that we don't have to be in charge. We don't have to be in control. We can live in full dependence on our Heavenly Father, who has a plan for us that's far greater than we ever ask or imagine.

I know not all of you are moms this weekend, but we're all invited to know Jesus. We are all invited to love him and love others. I believe that it is in his word that we learn to obey and submit to his authority. When we submit to the authority of Christ, we recognize our need for him. I cannot serve my family if I am not submitting to the authority of Christ, first and foremost. Can you? Would you let me pray for you, please?

Lord, give us the desire to know you as we get to know you by reading your word. Fill us with your love so that we can submit to what you instruct us to do. Help us to serve you and serve others in ways that are life-giving, life-producing. Help us to understand that your authority in our lives gives is the freedom to serve others. I love you, Jesus, and I thank you for bringing my family to Orchard Hill Church where we get to know you better. Amen.