The King of Kings

In 1900, the city of Chicago performed a civil engineering miracle. They reversed the direction of the Chicago River from flowing into the Great Lakes to flowing from the Great Lakes into the Chicago River. They had to dig 28 miles of canals to do it, and they had to move more dirt and rocks than was moved in the building of the Panama Canal. But they did it. They redirected the streams of waters.

The Bible tells us that the Lord does the same with the heart and minds of the governing authorities. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.” God’s sovereignty over the rulers of this earth is quite amazing. And as we see God’s ability to redirect the hearts of earthly kings to do His will, it emboldens us to pray God sized prayers for our governing authorities.

The Bible tells the story of God’s sovereignty over three kings. God demonstrated His power and made His name known despite the heart of Pharaoh trying to resist His will. God even worked on the heart of Nebuchadnezzar to humble him. And God stirred up the heart of Cyrus to act and to do His will.

When we see Proverbs 21.1 in living color in the pages of Scripture, it calls us to pray for God to do great and mighty things through our President, the Congress, and the Supreme Court.

Lord, may you direct the heart of our governing authorities to do Your will!

To learn more about the hope of Proverbs 21.1, listen to or watch the full sermon, “The King of Kings.”

Christian Resistance

500 years ago, it was illegal in England to possess a copy of the Bible in the English language. Hard to believe, but it is true. William Tyndale famously wanted the plowboy to know the Bible, so he illegally translated the Bible into English. And for all his work, he was executed by the governing authorities. But Tyndale resisted the governing authorities because he believed he must obey God rather than men.

As we have been studying Romans 13 and learning about God’s gracious gift of authority, our spirits have known that there might be times when our obedience to God forces us to disobey the governing authorities. This is most clearly demonstrated by the apostles refusal to stop preaching in the name of Jesus in Acts 5. Peter explained his defiance by saying, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Christian Resistance, the idea that the people of God sometimes have to resist the governing authorities in order to be obedience to God, fills biblical history. Moses, Shadrach, Esther, Daniel, Jeremiah, and the apostles all resisted the governing authorities in order to obey God. And Christian Resistance fills the pages of history with examples like Tyndale, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King Jr.

But how can we know that we have come to that point when we must resist the governing authorities in order to obey God? And if we have reached that point, how do we carry out that resistance? Fortunately for us, Christians have been thinking and writing about this very question for hundreds of years. And certain principles do guide this most difficult decision: (1) Christian Resistance is based upon a clear command of God that we can identify from Scripture, (2) Christian Resistance submits to authority even as it resists authority, (3) Christian Resistance is not about selfish gain, (4) Christian Resistance is willing to suffer personally, (5) Christian Resistance is committed to godly behavior even as they resist the governing authorities, and (6) Christian Resistance is a last resort after all other means have been exhausted.

To learn more about Christian Resistance, listen to or watch the full sermon, “Christian Resistance.”

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Authority: God’s Servant for Our Good

You have just been summoned into your supervisor’s office. What do you feel? Are you at peace, confident that your boss is about to speak something good into your day? Or is your blood pressure shooting through the roof as you fear being in trouble? Or even worse, do you dread that your boss is going to ask you to do something yet again that will make her life easier but your life more miserable?

As sinners, we have such a tenuous relationship with authority. On the one hand, we wouldn’t want to live in a world where there was no authority. How could we sleep at night if the bad guys knew there was no punishment for theft? But on the other hand, we have seen far too often people in positions of authority abuse that power for their own selfish gain. We live with this tension in our homes, at school, at work, and even in our communities. As followers of Christ, how should we view those in authority over us?

The Scriptures are quite clear, and quite challenging regarding this issue. The apostle Paul, no stranger to the abuse of authority in his own life, wrote these words to the church in Rome, themselves no stranger to the abusive authority of the Roman government: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13.1). In the seven verses that follow, Scripture teaches us that the governing authorities are God’s servant for our good, that we should submit to them as unto the Lord, that we should give them honor and respect, and that we face the wrath of God if we resist their authority.

These truths force us to wrestle with questions like “what about those in authority who abuse their power?” or “what about those in authority who try to suppress the gospel?”

But before we can wrestle with those questions, we must embrace the simple truths of Romans 13.1-7. And as we do, we have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves these four questions: (1) Can I praise God for all of the forms of authority in my life and receive them as gracious gifts of God? (2) Do I intentionally and regularly pray for those in authority over me as commanded in 1 Timothy 2? (3) Do I submit to the authorities God has placed in my life and show them honor and respect? (4) Do I exercise the authority God has given to me as the servant of God for the good of those over whom I have authority, or do I use my authority for my own selfish gain?

After we wrestle with these questions, we can move on to more pressing questions like, “Why does our sin nature so quickly want to rebel against authority if in fact authority is God’s gracious gift to us?”

For a more complete discussion on the teachings of Romans 13.1-7 and on God’s gracious gift of authority, listen to or watch the full sermon “Authority: God’s Servant for Our Good.”

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