Faithlife Sermons

The Authority of the Truth

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My Lighthouse
Romans 1
I Surrender to You
Great I AM
Praise the Father, Praise the Son
There Is Power
Max Lucado shared the story of Frank Koch, who served in the Navy on a battleship:
Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.
Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow." "Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.
The lookout replied, "Steady, Captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: 'We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the signal, "Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees."
The captain said, "Send: "I'm a captain, change course twenty degrees.'"
"I'm a seaman second-class," came the reply. "You had better change course twenty degrees." By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send: 'I'm a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."
We changed course.
Goes to show, the ultimate authority is the truth
No matter the earthly authority/power, the truth cannot be changed - in fact, it can only be denied to your own detriment
But that doesn't stop fallen man from doing just that: denying the truth. Our pride is so strong that many times we'd rather run into the lighthouse than accept the truth about who we are.
And the truth is that we have no authority of our own. Even for those of us who have earthly authority - home/work/church/state - we are all subject to a greater authority - the authority of God.
But when it comes down to it, we don't want that to be true. And this is the very nature of sin. We want authority. We don't want God to be our authority, we want to be our own authority.
This is how sin entered the world to begin with (the fall) - this is how sin operates in our own hearts - we want the authority. That's the truth.
But the truth is also that, when we do that, we live a lie. Because the ultimate authority is truth. The ultimate authority is God.
Today as we continue our series:
See the truth that sin wants to deny
See the authority that sin wants to deny
See the undeniability of the truth - all authority belongs to God.
Matthew 21:23–27 ESV
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
Isaiah prophesied:
Isaiah 45:18–23 ESV
For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right. “Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
See the truth:
God is the maker of all things, because He has all the power - all of it
He has not withheld the truth from us - He plainly tells us Who He is and who we are
But we choose to deny the truth. Because we are, all of us, in our natural state, idolaters. We want a God made in our image, or more concisely - we want a God that is ourselves.
But there is one God, and everyone, eventually, whether they think they want to or not - everyone will bow to the authority of God.
The question is: will we do that now?
That's what Jesus addresses in our passage today. He has the authority. That's the truth. Deny it to your own detriment.
And that's exactly what we see happen.
Matthew 21:23 ESV
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
Jesus spent His time teaching the truth of God (the truth's we've seen over the last two weeks - judgment and faith)
Romans 6:23 ESV
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The judgment of God - God must judge sin. Either your sin is judged when you die, or it is judged when Jesus died - you get your wage or Jesus does
The gift of God (grace!) is eternal life (Last week - Jesus is our fig tree) - it is by grace, but through faith.
Ephesians 2:8–10 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Faith leads to works - (saved by faith alone, never a faith that is alone) - (last week: fruit) - through faith we have the result of God working in us, and the results of that is fruit - (the heart that believes is the heart that acts!)
So this is the truth Jesus taught - and He brought it right to the Jews - I won't rehash all they were wrong about, but I will remind us of two things:
Jesus came to bring the Gospel to the Jews - to the house of Israel He came to preach (the lost sheep as He Himself said)
He was rejected by the Jews (the first Christian heresy)
And yet Jesus, after being rejected/argued with/threatened time and again (and knowing that the final rejection was coming!) - after all of this, He kept bringing these unbelievers the Word of God - (especially during the feast - large crowds)
But look at how the most "religious" of the bunch react to Jesus:
Matthew 21:23 ESV
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
Notice what they ask Him - they want proof of His authority - (what authority? whose authority?)
Authority to do "these things" - what things? The last two days of Jesus life:
Triumphal entry (Announcement as Messiah - stones cry out!)
Temple cleansing (cleansing sin - "My" house is a house of prayer)
These things are the "these things" that they were asking Jesus about. They wanted to know by what authority He did them.
The were trying to trap Jesus (last week: they were seeking to destroy Him - they wanted to destroy His influence, His relevance)
If own authority - discredited
If the authority of God - the Messiah - all that "My house" and "I and the Father are One" claims - blasphemer (this is what ultimately led to His crucifixion)
Matthew 26:63–66 ESV
But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”
This is what they were trying for here in the Temple. But they'd have to wait a few more days to get what they wanted.
Notice what they don't ask Him - whether or not what He teaches is the truth (authority, not veracity is always the issue)
Unsaved man doesn't deny the truth of God because it isn't true, but because he doesn't want it to be true - why? - because then God is God and I am not, and I like being my own God.
What we heard this morning about unbelievers from Romans 1:
Romans 1:19–23 ESV
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
The truth is plain because God has shown Himself to the world. It was plain for the Jews in Jesus day - it is for all of mankind today. - as we heard this morning - they suppress the truth, they refuse to acknowledge God, and they know they deserve to die!
So why don't they believe? Because they don't want to give up their own authority. Unbelief is not about truth. It's about power!
We should know, because we still tend to do the same - last week - though we acknowledge God with our mouths, we often don't with our actions. Why? We don't want to give up our own authority!
But we are the church! And we are the church for a reason! (universal and RFH - each using our gifts to further the mission of the whole church)
Matthew 28:18–20 ESV
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As we have seen, the last part is so important. We alway concentrate on the making disciples/baptism/teaching - but Jesus makes us a promise - He is with us (last week - results of faith = God doing the work in and through us)
But just as important is that first part. All authority is His (not just in church/matters of religion/morality - ALL)
But sin fights against that. Our hearts fight against that.
This is what you hear in society, isn't it? Be you, do what you want to do (power within) - tolerate everyone's personal choices - sin is glorified everywhere you look - but don't think for a second that people believe these lies because society forces it on them. No! Our society is like this because of the sin in our hearts! Not the other way around.
(Nature vs. Nurture*) - it's all nature
It is this nature that suppresses the truth of God, and that denied His authority at all costs. That's why:
Matthew 21:23 ESV
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
They didn't want the truth. They didn't want proof of His authority. They wanted to be rid of Him. So they try to trap Him (discredit Him as a mere man touting His own truth, or as a blasphemer)
But Jesus turns the tables. He does this so often it is amazing they kept trying.
Matthew 21:24–25 ESV
Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’
Jesus wasn't trapped. They were. How?
Realize that Jesus was not avoiding the question - answering a question with a question was His thing - He was great at it!
Jesus was actually answering the question. Because their answer to His question was the answer to their question. (from man or from God?)
Let's back up to the beginning of Jesus' ministry to see how. Jesus started His ministry at His baptism. Right before that, we read this:
Matthew 3:1–12 ESV
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Notice a few things
the religious leaders came to John's baptism - they believed him to be a prophet (the greatest OT prophet!)
Jesus Himself said:
Luke 7:28 ESV
I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
John prophesied of Jesus (of judgment/wrath, of faith [stones, remember], of fruit that results from faith)
He left no doubt about Who he was predicting:
John 1:29–30 ESV
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’
(The idea of triple recognition - smicha* - gave authority)
That's really the reason they asked Jesus that question about authority - it wasn't really a question - they were saying to Jesus "We have authority and you do not" - this was about authority, not truth!
But the truth is that Jesus has authority - He had smicha like nobody else ever did.
God the Father
John the Baptist bore witness to Jesus
Jesus' works bore witness to Jesus
John 14:10–11 ESV
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
The works that Jesus did - the very works that Jesus was being questioned on - they bore witness to Him. They bore witness to the authority by which He did them. They answered the question.
That's why Jesus answers their question about His authority with the question about John the Baptist - the very questions begged the answer - it was by the authority of God that Jesus did what He did.
And that's why the priests and elders couldn't answer Jesus' question.
Matthew 21:25–26 ESV
The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
Notice again that they are not concerned one bit with the truth. Either John was sent by God or he wasn't. Either Jesus did hat He did by the authority of God, or He didn't. (It was a matter of convenience - what gave them the power/would preserve their authority)
Either way they answered the question, they would lose their authority.
Because if they said from heaven, that gives the authority to John, who gave authority to Jesus.
If they said from man, they would be discredited with the people and lose their power.
I love a good debate (ask my wife) - Jesus was the best. He put them in a corner they couldn't possibly get out of
So they could not answer Jesus' question:
Matthew 21:27 ESV
So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
They couldn't answer His question, and that answered their question.
Matthew 21:27 ESV
So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
Jesus didn't need to answer their question. Because the question was answered.
And here is the amazing thing: they all knew the answer to both questions.
Jesus knew
Everyone in the Temple that heard the exchange knew
The priests and elders knew (Nicodemus!)
As I said: Jesus painted them into the corner they couldn't get out of. How? The truth!
What we see here is what we saw two weeks ago and already this morning - sin turns the truth of God into a lie
Romans 1:25 ESV
because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
This is what the world does - the unsaved who have earned the wages of their sin even though they know the truth, just like the priests in the Temple questioning Jesus knew the truth.
Romans 1:18 ESV
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
But as we have seen, we who have been saved also still tend to do this. (last week: we know the truth* and speak the truth* - but don't always live the truth*)
That is why we need Jesus. The greatest need anyone has is Jesus. (people need to be justified - we need to be sanctified)
Jesus prayed to the Father for us:
John 17:17 ESV
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
We have what the unsaved world needs: justification* (freed from the punishment of sin) - (God has the wages we earned for the wages Jesus earned ) (freed from the wrath of God we earned by exchanging the truth of God for a lie)
We have that justification by grace through faith! We still need Jesus because we need sanctification. We need to be made holy. And that's what God wants to work in us by the truth:
1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
He became our sanctification* (freedom from the power of sin - freedom to not just know/speak the truth - freedom to live the truth!!)
This is the freedom found only in Christ!
John 8:36 ESV
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Where is that freedom? The truth!
John 8:32 ESV
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
But there is still an issue, isn't there? Like we saw: everyone in that Temple knew the truth - Jesus/people/priests/elders.
But the problem didn't change - why? (not about truth for them - they didn't want to give up their authority/power)
What about us? We know the truth (the Gospel* - justification, sanctification, glorification)
We know what it means for us as the elect of God (all the glorious promises!! God kept/will keep*)
Here is the big question: we have the truth. The question isn't about the truth. It is a question of authority.
Whose authority do we live under? Ours, or God's? (not about what we know/say - how we live - do we live the truth?)
We want authority. We want power. That's the truth.
We have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
We still tend to worship and serve the creature rather than the creator (not graven images/idols - ourselves)
***My talk with Livi - I am a child with a sense of entitlement, too, as it turns out***
The tendency of my weak, sinful heart is to put me first sometimes. Even over my heavenly Father. Is it just me?
Raise hands?
The lie we have exchanged for the truth is that power is found in autonomy - in us having the authority.
(how are we different from the world then??)
Power is found in having things my way
Found in getting what I want
Found in more authority (home/work/church - or over myself)
But the truth is, real power is found only in God.
The Father - Jesus promised His disciples
Luke 24:49 ESV
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
The Holy Spirit
Acts 1:8 ESV
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
In the Son - because, as it turns out, this is a matter of truth after all.
John 14:6 ESV
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
There is power in truth because Jesus is the truth
Freedom - the truth has set us free - free from what? The punishment we deserve - the punishment for sin (because the truth lowered Himself, lived a perfect life, and allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross to free us!)
Sanctification (the power of sin)
Freedom to live the truth
Freedom to let go of the lie that the power we hold onto is real power (did the priests and elders have any real power??)
Freedom to empty our hands and hearts by faith - empty them of our weakness/insecurities/failures and let God fill both with power!!
Freedom to do what will bring us true freedom - let go of ourselves and learn to grasp tightly onto the One Who died to free us
This is what we have in Jesus!
Power - power to live the truth!!
And that's the truth. And faith believes the truth, while sin denies the truth. Will we walk out of here today in faith?
Whose authority do we live under? (not know we should/not say)
I want to see us freed from our sin and its power. I want to see us live the truth by faith. And the only way to do that, is to submit our hearts to Jesus.
Jesus, Who has all the power, and all the authority. Who is the truth.
Who prayed for us:
John 17:17–19 ESV
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
(lived a holy life unto God so we could live a holy life unto God in truth)
1 Peter 1:14–23 ESV
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
1 John 3:19–24 ESV
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
2 Corinthians 13:5–8 ESV
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.
We have been saved by the blood of Christ. We have been freed by His power. That's the truth. When we don't live out that truth, we make ourselves slaves to sin. And that is living a lie. Because the Son has set us free.
Let us live the truth. Because to deny the truth, is to deny Him, and we do that to our own detriment.
The truth is clear. The lighthouse is shining brightly. Let's change course.
Ephesians 4:17–32 ESV
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Jesus has the power to do this in us. By faith, in truth.
Psalm 111
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