In all sectors of life, discovering and respecting balance is extremely important. That truth can be illustrated in so many ways. Consider just one. For most of us, our morning routine includes starting and driving a car or truck. Most of us take for granted starting and driving our vehicles. Most of us use the engine's power without a thought. We just count on the power being there. It will "happen" without thought or understanding.

The power that moves most cars happens because of an explosion. For that explosion to occur, the engine must have the proper balance between gasoline and oxygen. Without a balance of gasoline and oxygen, that vehicle with its sleek interior, CD player, fine tires, and great looks will sit motionless as if it were a rock. If the explosion occurs (we call it combustion) within the walls of the cylinders in just the right sequence, the pistons move. The moving pistons turn the drive shaft. The turning drive shaft moves the wheels. And off we go. But nothing happens unless the gasoline and oxygen are balanced.

Take the same gasoline and the same oxygen, put them in a gasoline container, drop a lighted match in the container. You have the same explosion, but the explosion produces a destructive fire.

Take the same gasoline and the same oxygen, and ignite them at the refinery. You have the same explosion, but the explosion produces an enormous disaster.

The combustion in the car engine, the fire in the gasoline container, and the refinery explosion all produce power if you have the right balance of gasoline and oxygen. Only the engine uses that power productively.

  1. In Romans 1:16,17, Paul wrote to Christians in Rome:
    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."
    1. The gospel is the power source that fuels salvation.
      1. The gospel is:
        1. The good news of Jesus' death and resurrection.
        2. The good news that God atoned for our sins and can redeem us from evil through Jesus' blood in Jesus' death.
        3. The good news that God demonstrated His power to raise us from the dead by raising Jesus from the dead.
      2. When a person understands the power in that good news and trusts that power by responding to God who gave the power, he or she receives salvation.
      3. When a person either refuses to understand the power of the good news or rejects the power of the good news, the result is eternal condemnation.
      4. The same power can save (which is God's desire) or destroy.
    2. In Jesus' death, God did the righteous thing (Romans 3:24, 25).
      1. God has the right to forgive our sins because God paid the full consequences of our sins in Jesus' death (Romans 3:26).
      2. God can atone for our sins by using Jesus' blood to remove our sins.
      3. God can redeem us from sin, buy us back from Satan, because God allowed Jesus to be made sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21).
    3. How can I unleash the power of God in the gospel to produce the blessings and benefits of salvation in my life?
      1. I allow the power of the gospel to "explode" in my life by responding to God with a proper balance.
      2. Is authority a part of that balance? Absolutely!
      3. Is authority the only thing necessary to produce my salvation? No.
        1. Authority looks to God alone for guidance.
        2. Faith trusts God's guidance.
        3. Obedience responds to God's guidance.
        4. Spirituality devotes itself to being the godly, righteous person God saves me to become.
    4. Salvation is the result of seeking the right balance between authority and spirituality.
      1. Anytime I use authority to oppose spirituality, I am ignoring God's balance.
      2. Anytime I use spirituality to oppose authority, I am ignoring God's balance.
      3. If I want salvation in Christ, I want to trust Jesus' death and resurrection, I want to obey God, I want do to God's will.
      4. But God's power of salvation in Christ involves more than appealing to authority.
      5. It is too easy to abuse authority by focusing on God's words without understanding God's meaning.
        1. It is too easy to abuse authority by ignoring the meaning of what God said.
        2. It is too easy to abuse authority by ignoring God's message.
        3. It is too easy to abuse authority by ignoring God's purpose.
        4. When an appeal to authority is used to oppose God's message and God's purpose, that authority is not God's authority--no matter what the person claims.
      6. A proper use of God's authority never ignores God's message or purposes.

  2. I ask you to consider a group in the New Testament who had no balance in seeking to do God's will.
    1. This group is sobering and scary. Why?
      1. They were very religious.
      2. They made God's authority the only issue in determining right from wrong.
      3. They were experts on the words in scripture, and could readily quote those words.
    2. But:
      1. They misunderstood God's message and purposes.
      2. They used their misunderstanding to oppose God's message and purposes.
      3. They appealed to authority to oppose God's message and purposes.
      4. They rejected God's own son, completely failed to recognize him, because he emphasized God's message and purposes in opposition to their conclusions.
      5. One of the primary tools they used to oppose Jesus was an appeal to authority.
    3. Who were these devoutly religious people? Israel's religious leaders; the one people who should have understood God's authority, meaning, and purpose.

  3. I call your attention to two situations in Matthew, the gospel written to Jewish people.
    1. The first is found in Matthew 12:1-8.
      1. I will paraphrase the incident; please look at these verses as I do so.
      2. Jesus and his disciples were taking a walk on the Sabbath day, and the Pharisees were following him in a desire to catch him violating authority.
      3. The disciples were hungry, so they stripped some heads of ripe grain from the tops of wheat or barley stalks and ate the grain.
      4. Promptly the Pharisees who followed accused them of violating scripture's authority.
        1. They regarded the disciples' reaching out along the path and stripping the grain to be a violation of one of the ten commandments.
        2. Exodus 20:8-10 commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work.
          1. It was a Sabbath day, and they regarded what the disciples did as an act of work.
          2. According to their oral law, which made application of the written law, the disciples were guilty of reaping or harvesting or both.
      5. Jesus responded to their accusation.
        1. By using examples of David eating the consecrated bread and the priests offering sacrifices on the Sabbath, Jesus used the authority of scripture to challenge the basis on which they determined authority.
        2. That certainly is worthy of study and understanding, but I want you to focus on Jesus' basic observation:
          Matthew 12:7 "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent."
          1. Jesus said, "You do not understand the meaning of God's complete will."
          2. He quoted Hosea 6:6 to document the truth that they did not understand God's meaning and purposes.
          3. Jesus said in God's priority, compassion is more important than sacrifice.
          4. Jesus said if they understood that, they would not condemn the innocent.
      6. To the Pharisees, Jesus' statement was heresy.
      7. But, Jesus' statement was based on a perfect understanding of God's priorities.
      8. These Pharisees abused God's authority because they did not understand God's meaning.
    2. The second is found in Matthew 21:23-27.
      1. This incident occurred during the last week of Jesus' earthly life, and we need to examine its context.
      2. The chapter begins with Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem.
        1. This is the conscious act of an Israelite king riding into the royal city.
        2. The multitude understood the meaning of what happened, and their acts and shouts were the acts and shouts of Israelite people receiving their new king.
        3. The multitude rejoiced; the religious leaders fumed.
      3. In verses 12 through 17 Jesus caused a major incident in the temple area by overturning money tables of those who exchanged currency.
        1. Those who traveled long distances were permitted to buy their sacrifices after they arrived in Jerusalem instead of bringing their own animals.
        2. But often to make a purchase, they had to turn foreign currency into local currency.
        3. That is what the money changers did--they exchanged currency (for a fee).
      4. In verse 23 Jesus came to the temple area (one of the large courtyards) to teach.
        1. Those who controlled temple activities were religious leaders in Jerusalem; they came to Jesus.
        2. They asked him two questions; consider both questions.
          1. "By what authority are you doing these things?"
          2. "Who gave you the authority to do them?"
        3. It was all a question and matter of authority.
          1. These religious leaders certainly had not given Jesus the authority.
          2. The Jerusalem Sanhedrin, the highest court in Israel, had not given him the authority.
          3. Since these religious leaders considered themselves to be God's official authority, in no way did they regard Jesus' actions as approved by God.
        4. Please note Jesus never answered their question.
        5. Please note that the religious people who insisted on knowing "by what authority" did not understand God's message, did not understand God's purpose, and did not recognize God's Son.

Must our spiritual authority come from God? Yes! That is the point: it must be God's authority and not our own conclusions. If it is God's authority, it will be in balance with faith in Christ and obedience to God. If it is God's authority, it will cause me to be a spiritual person. If it is God's authority, I will not only understand what scripture says, but I will devote myself to understanding what it means.

When a Christian man or woman uses authority to justify ungodly attitudes or unspiritual acts, he or she is abusing God's authority. He or she is substituting his or her own views for God's meaning and purpose in God's word. The objective is to be spiritual people as we live in Christ. The objective is never self-justification.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 3 June 2001

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