Thursday, January 31, 2013

What is Authority?

Before we can discuss how to get our authority back we need to first establish what authority is and, more specifically, what Jesus was talking about when He mentioned authority. There are two sides of authority and the first side is power. Throughout the New Testament we see many examples of this power being acted out, but before we look at those examples let's look at what Jesus Himself said about the power that comes with authority:
Then He called His disciples together and gave them authority over all demons and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of Gid and to heal the sick.
Luke 9:1-2

Behold I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Luke 10:19

And these signs shall follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Mark 16:17-18

In these three scriptures we can see two common themes. First, with this authority comes a power to heal the sick and to cast out demons, and second, it brings a protection on our own lives. In John 14:12, Jesus says that we will do the same works He did and even greater. Imagine that, we are supposed to be doing even greater works than Jesus Himself did!
The book of Acts is packed full of displays of power coming from this authority which Jesus gave His followers. There are specific detailed stories starting in chapter 3, when Peter and John heal the lame man at the gate called Beautiful, all the way to chapter 28 where Paul heals every sick person on the island of Malta. This brings us back to the question; if the power was so evident in the book of Acts where is it in the church today? Many people have attempted to answer this question and, like always, the devil has attempted to steal the truth through lies and deception. For this reason I want to address two lies of the enemy.

Lie #1 - This power left the church with John, the last of the twelve apostles.
Some people attempt to answer this question by saying that the church goes through different ages or time periods. During the early church there was an 'Age of Healing', but once John the Apostle died, that age ended. The theory is that Jesus' promises were only applicable to the twelve apostles and that once they passed away the age was gone. Tis paints a picture of a line of people at John's deathbed hoping for one last healing before he died.
There are two major problems with this theory. First, the Bible says that Jesus is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). We serve a God who never changes and that means if Jesus was a healer 2000 years ago, He is a healer today. If He is always the same then His desires and abilities are always the same. Throughout the Bible we see a clear desire and ability to heal, cast out demons, and raise the dead; this desire remains. There is absolutely no Biblical backing to the idea that an 'age of healing' was here and is gone, therefore there is no reason to believe it.
Secondly, our experience has shown us that healing continues today. Though we do not seem to see the demonstration of power as often as shown in the book of Acts, there have been plenty of men and women of God who have received the revelation of this power and acted accordingly. We see numerous examples in the Healing Revival of the 1940's and 1950's, from John G. Lake to Smith Wigglesworth we have heard amazing stories Of the demonstration of the power of God in people's lives. More recently, we have seen ministers like Lester Sumrall or even Benny Hinn. I also can tell you stories of how God has demonstrated his healing and delivering power through me. So it is clear that the power is still for today, although the question still remains of why it sometimes seems to be diminishing.

Lie #2 - Only certain people can walk in this authority.
The second lie that the devil has attempted to use to deceive the church is that only certain people can walk in God's power. The theory is that Jesus chose the twelve disciples to act out His authority on earth, and that as the years have gone by, God has continued to choose an elect few who are to continue to represent His authority. This gives the reasoning that there are fewer people walking in this authority simply because God has only chosen an elect few to do so.
Again, there is little to no support of this theory in the Bible. According to this theory Jesus only sent out the 'twelve' but we see in Luke 10 that He send out seventy people to work in His authority. We also see, repeatedly, that the promise is to "those that believe" (Mark 16:17, John 14:12). The third evidence in the Bible, that this authority is for more than just the apostles, comes from simply reading the book of Acts a bit more carefully. There are people all throughout the book who were not apostles and yet still walked in this power. Stephen, the first martyr for Jesus, is one example of this. The Bible says that Stephen was appointed to "serve tables" (Acts 6:2-5). Then in Acts 6:8 it says: "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people." Stephen was a waiter for the widows and he walked in the same authority and power that the apostles did! This same point can be seen in Philip, Barnabas, Priscilla, Aquilla, and even Paul, as none of these people were members of the original twelve.

So now that we have uncovered two of the most common lies of the enemy regarding this subject we are back to our original question. Why is this authority missing from so many people's lives in the church today? To answer this question we must return to the discussion of what authority is. So far we have only discussed one side of authority, namely power. But there is a second side to authority; with that power comes a responsibility. Jesus said "all authority has been given to me", that means that with this authority, with this power, comes a responsibility to represent Jesus. The reason so few people walk in this power is because few people walk in such a way that they represent Jesus.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Where has the Authority of Today's Church Gone?

In Matthew 28:18 Jesus told His disciples "... All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth." (NKJV) He then sent His disciples out in the same authority to spread the Gospel. The church of today seems to be losing this authority that once was so evident. In the book of Acts it was always "what I do have I give you" (Acts 3:6) but in today's society it often seems to be 'what I've learned I'll teach you'. We have preachers without conviction and teachers without love, then these leaders produce disciples who are the same. There were times when the church grew with little or no effort from the people, but now we have people working twice as hard and a decreasing church as a reward.

So the question we need to ask is, what's the difference between today's church and the church in the book of Acts? What do we need to change to return to the place we once were and he place we should be? Where is the place we should be? If you've asked yourselves these questions then keep reading, but be sure that your ready to make a change. In James 4:8 God promises that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us, that means He looks to us to make the first step. That step is rarely easy to make but in the end it's more rewarding than we could ever imagine! In this case the step is simply a decision.

We need to decide what our goal is, and how much we are willing to pay to fulfill this goal. Every Christian, at some point in life, is presented with a decision between a radical life with God, filled with sacrifice and reward, or a normal, comfortable life with a simple goal of making it to heaven. God's grace is enough that we can make it to heaven without true sacrifice, but if our goal is to simply get out of hell and make it to heaven we will never live in the authority of the early church and we will never see the power that comes with that authority. On the other hand, if we decide to sacrifice our own desires and our own comforts to seek after His will, then "with God all things are possible"! (Matthew 19:26) The Bible makes it clear that it is "by grace [we] have been saved through faith" and "not by works lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8) but there should be something else that drives us to do what we do. We need more Christians in today's church who, like Jeremiah, have God's Word "in [their] heart like a burning fire shut up in [their] bones"! (Jeremiah 20:9) My prayer is that as you read this blog God would impart that fire into your bones and you would continue living with a greater passion for Him than ever before.