What is our attitude supposed to be toward our government and authority in our lives?
February 23, 2023
Speaker: Pastor Gary Peters
Passage: Romans 12:18-13:7
How many of you have heard of what’s going on in Kentucky?
I’m excited for two reasons:
1) Normally revival starts with young people.
2) This is the second time something like this has broken out there — a couple 100 years ago or 150 years ago, or whatever it was. But sometimes there’s portals that I believe God uses or regions that God uses to bring revival.
But how cool would it be, not just because we’re a college town, but how cool would it be for God to break out in every college town in America?
The last song was a poem by a guy that’s ready to die for his faith. And he’s a Russian Orthodox priest. And there are people in this world saying Russian Orthodox aren’t even Christians, and that’s how stupid we get.
It’s stupid that we put tags and titles on things. So will you pray with me that God moves on America’s college campuses? What about Boulder? What about Berkeley? What about Columbia and Yale, and Harvard? Those Ivy League schools were once theological seminaries.
God, we pray, do something that amazes us. We pray, Father God, that we don’t try to duplicate what’s being done in Kentucky. We want something fresh for Fort Collins and Loveland. We want something fresh for CSU, Father God, and the Boulder campus, Father. We want something fresh for what You want to do in Stanford and Berkeley, Father God, and Yale and Columbia, Father, Harvard. We ask, Father God, that You would move across the big ten, across the PAC 12, across the Big 12, Father God. I ask in Jesus’s name that You do something special. God, turn our young people. There’s so many of them that say, “I don’t have any faith, God.” Get them, we pray, in Jesus’s name. God, turn lives around, do something special. So that man can’t take credit. You get the glory. And people are brought into the kingdom by the droves, we pray. We thank You Father God, in Jesus name. The church said, Amen.
I’m going to revisit what David Mitchell taught last week. Not because he didn’t do a good job. But the beauty of a Teaching Team is this: we have different perspectives of the same Scripture and different insights. That’s why I love it when we get these men and women together every Wednesday morning and discuss the Scripture, and you present your notes.
It’s something amazing that takes place. Different perspectives on the same passage of Scripture. But I want to share with you from the lens of the old guy. Because I’m the oldest one on staff, and I’m the oldest one on the Teaching Team. It amazes me that in Jesus’s answer to Pilate in John 19:10 and the two New Testament writers of Peter and Paul, they really don’t say anything about government — except that God is sovereign over it and you should submit to it.
We don’t like that, as Americans. We don’t like that statement. To submit to governing authorities and to pray for rulers. The question even came up in the study we’re doing on Tuesday night. The very first session we had was “How do I handle authority? How do I handle power? When I’ve been given power, how do I handle it?” We should have a little respect and understanding for people with authority in our lives.
I want to tell you something. It shouldn’t come as a shock. If you are not a believer, you won’t act like one. Your boss who is over you is a pagan if he’s not a Christian. He doesn’t know Jesus, and he acts like he doesn’t know Jesus. If they don’t know Christ, our government officials act like they don’t know Jesus.
The Scripture is very clear that we need to honor and respect the office at least. The question of how you handle authority? Dads, how do you handle your families? Moms, how do you handle your families? How do you handle your children? How do you handle if you’re over employees? How do you handle those situations? You never lose your temper, and you never blow it, do you?
And yet we have no grace for people in authority over us. The end of Chapter 12 has to be read with the beginning of chapter 13. I’m going to begin with verse 18 of Romans chapter 12.
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” The New American Standard says this, “If possible, so far as depends upon you, live at peace with all people. Dear friends never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God.” The NIV says, “Leave room for God.” What a novel idea.
“Leave room for God, for the Scriptures say ‘I will take revenge, I will pay back’ says the Lord. Instead, if your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they’re thirsty, give them something to drink.”
Sounds like the words of whom? Jesus.
“In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads. Don’t let evil conquer you but conquer evil by doing what is good.”
Verse one of chapter 13, “Everyone must submit themselves to governing authorities for all authority comes from God. And those in a position of authority have been placed there by God.”
Man, I don’t know if I like that. It may be because the votes weren’t counted, but I still don’t like it. But I trust the sovereign God.
So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against God and what He has instituted. They will be punished, for the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing what is right.
I remember when I used to smoke weed and pulled up to a stop sign. The four-way stop. Across the way from me was a police officer. All of a sudden, I got really paranoid. Why? Because I had just smoked weed. You get paranoid when you smoke weed anyway, but I got paranoid.
The Colorado State Patrol goes by me, and I’m like, “Oh no, oh no.” If I’m not going 90 when it’s 65, maybe I wouldn’t have a problem. Follow me?
I shouldn’t have concern if I’m doing what is right. For they are God’s servants sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do wrong. But you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but to keep a clear conscience.
Pay your taxes, pay your taxes, pay your taxes, pay your taxes. Jesus said it, Paul said it Peter said it. We don’t get to say, “I don’t believe what the government spends my money on his right, so therefore, I don’t have to pay.”
Paul was talking about people submitted to the Romans. None of you have been wrapped in an animal’s skin and fed to the lions yet.
Pay your taxes not only to avoid punishment. Pay your taxes for the same reason: government workers need to be paid. They are only serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them, pay your taxes, and the government fees to those who collect them, and respect and honor those who are in authority.
I’ve said this many times, Simon the Zealot wanted to overthrow the Romans. Matthew was a tax collector, and I guarantee they bunk together by divine order by Jesus. Someone who submitted to Roman authority, and not only Roman authority, but did the Roman dirty work with the Jews, and somebody who wanted to overthrow the government and God put them together in church.
Timothy says this, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for people.” And he’s asking at this time to pray for Nero. Nero dipped Christians in oil and used them as lanterns in his garden parties. He burnt down two-thirds of Rome and blamed it on the Christians.
“Ask God to help them. Intercede on their behalf and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that you can live the life you want to live a peaceful life, quiet life marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases our Savior.”
Titus chapter 3, “Remind the believers to submit to God, the government, and its officers, for they should be obedient and always be ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone. They must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.”
In 1 Peter, so we’re getting away from Paul, we’re talking about what Peter says now, “For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority, whether the king as the head of state or the officials that He is appointed.”
Who is the king that he’s talking about? Study the Herodian line in Palestine at the time. I read a book one time called Thrones of Blood. And it was written about the Herods.
And he says, “Pray for the kings. Submit to them. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.”
Some observations I want to make on the question of authority. And I believe I’m going to hit the spectrum where every one of us can land in some of these points. I used to have an older gentleman that pastored People’s Church in Salem, Oregon come in the spring. And I had another gentleman that would come in the fall because I respected these two mentors in my life. And I wanted them to speak into the life of the church as somebody that was older.
Bob Cornwall once said that we need to be aware of the dangerous illusion of a manageable deity. I’ve never forgotten it. The dangerous illusion of a manageable deity. And his point was putting God in our box, telling God how he has to act. Telling God what he must do, or I won’t serve you. It still amazes me that the song that we sang was a poem of a guy about ready to be martyred for his faith — by the Nazis by the way.
Roman culture was completely different than ours. And yet, where do I place my trust? Where did Paul place his trust? And I want to tell you this; it’s easy to place your trust in people you respect. Correct? It’s much harder to place your trust in an authority that you don’t respect.
I just began to think about this. That in my lifetime, here are the US presidents in my lifetime. Dwight D. Eisenhower, don’t remember him, was only four years old when he left office. I remember John F. Kennedy. I remember the day he died, came back from school in second grade, and found out Kennedy had been shot and killed. Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter — God minister to Jimmy Carter. He’s gotten on hospice care. We just found out yesterday. Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Joe Biden.
Some of those almost have a visceral tune to the church’s ear. People say, “Well, he’s not my president, so I’m not going to pray for him.” Then you’re going to do something other than what Paul says in Timothy.
I want to ask you about that list I just read. How many believe God like you believe God? How many stood for complete godly principles and judged everything they judged by godly principles? And yet God used every one of them to shape us as who we are as a people.
The second thing I want to mention is this: I have difficulty trusting God’s sovereign authority. I thought about this. God used a Roman tax decree to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem so that Jesus could be born according to the prophets. And yet the Jews missed it because he was then raised in Nazareth. A Roman tax decree was used by God to birth our savior in the right town.
Now, maybe if I were God, I wouldn’t send a woman who was nine months plus, ready to burst, pregnant, and make her go to a town that wasn’t even where she would live and give birth to a child. But God, in His sovereignty, knew that that’s where the best place was. Paul says in Galatians that Jesus was born in the fullness, the perfect time, the most correct time of all.
Have you ever studied Roman history? 60% of the culture was slaves. Maybe 70%. They were ruthless. They would conquer an area and kill everybody, and then bring the rulers to parade them in front of the Roman authorities.
Do you realize the allies of Russia and China in World War II became two of the most ruthless, totalitarian regimes that the world has ever seen? They say Stalin probably killed 50 million of his own people in the 50s and 60s. And yet God used them to deliver us from Japan and Nazi rule. If I was God, maybe I would choose somebody else. Maybe I would use a different mode.
How about God using pagan, ruthless, wicked Babylon to judge Israel? Turn with me if you have your Bibles to Habakkuk. This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision. None of us have ever been living in verse two. “How long, oh Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen. Violence is everywhere. I cry but you haven’t come to save.”
Has that been your cry lately for our society? Has that been anybody’s cry?
I have people all the time telling me this is the worst time to ever live. And I always say, “You don’t know world history.”
“Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I’m surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed. There’s no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” This could be written about our society today.
“The Lord replied, look around at the nations, look and be amazed for I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t even believe if someone told you about it.”
Do we believe that church? Do we believe that’s the God we serve? That in spite of what we are seeing, in spite of the things that you and I do not like?
The perversion of justice we see — we see things that are evil being called good and good being called evil and the wicked in power. When we see these things, how many of us are going, “God what are you up to? What are you doing?” And yet He says, “I am working in your midst. And even if I told you about it, you wouldn’t believe it.”
Listen to what He says to Habakkuk.
I’m raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people who will march across the world and conquer other lands. They are notorious for their cruelty, and do whatever they like. Their horses are swifter than cheetahs and fiercer than the wolves at dusk. Their charioteers charge from far away like eagles. They swoop down and devour prey. On they come all bent on violence. Their hordes advance like the desert wind sweeping captives ahead of them like sand. They scoff at kings and princes, scorn all their fortresses. They simply pile up ramps of earth against their walls and capture them. They sweep past the wind, like the wind and they’re gone. But they are deeply guilty for their own strength is their God.
God is saying these people don’t even serve me, but they serve my purposes. If you understand world history, if you understand biblical history, God many times gives nations leadership they deserve because he’s doing something different in the lives of people. If we’ve seen anything in the last three years in America, the church is a mess when it comes to what we think about government.
If I polled you right now, there’d be 100 people with 100 different opinions. And they tell you what opinions are like: eyeballs, we all have them.
Oh Lord, my God, my holy one, you are eternal. Surely, you do not plan to wipe us out. Oh Lord, our rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins, but you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil. Will you wink at their treachery? Should you be silent while all the wicked swallow up people that are more righteous than they?
In other words, you’re using a wicked nation to deal with people who, even as bad as they are, do not perform the wickedness of the next people who are coming. In the scope of current events, and even looking back on history, I don’t know His sovereign plan or what He is accomplishing.
Can anybody say in their life, looking back at everything God did, “I knew it was good for me, and it would be what’s best for me. And at the time, I really enjoyed it.”
I say it all the time. It amazes me that the manna, the bread sent from heaven, which was a picture of Jesus. The Hebrews called it “manna” because they said, “What is this?”
It wasn’t like, “Oh, what is this?” It’s like, “What is this stuff? We want quail from Egypt.” God says, “You want quail, I’ll give you a quail. It’ll come out your nose. I’ll give you quail.” How many have ever thrown up where it’s come out your nose?
Sometimes you get something where God says, “You want that? I’ll give it to you. You want that? I’ll bring it where it’s piled four feet high. There’ll be so many quail you won’t know what to do with them, but you’ll eat them and you’ll get sick.” And they said, “We loathe this miserable food,” talking about the manna.
Church, I’m going to tell you something. I’ve served God for 50 years. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at something and said, God, “What is that? What are you doing that for? What are you using those people for? What are you using that situation for? Why do you allow that to happen? What is going on there? What is this?”
And I love the fact that God doesn’t slap Habakkuk upside the head and say, “What are you saying?” He allows him to offer his complaints. Because God knows that in our hearts, we want to do what’s right. But there’s something that he’s stirring in our lives, to show us that He is the sovereign God of the universe.
Church, do me a favor, stay close, have a daily encounter, keep your mouths closed, be quick to hear, slow to speak. It’ll serve you well.
There are times when we respectfully question and even refuse authority.
Things to consider. Number one, does the request or demand of authority violate Scripture? Not your interpretation; does it violate Scripture? And the way we really check that out is to seek counsel and talk about it — not argue about it — talk about it.
Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Everybody look at me. Rest assured, if Vintage is ever asked by the US government to stop talking about Jesus, we will not obey. Period.
Certain things are non-negotiable, i.e., not to share the gospel, not to share the good news. In Acts 4:18-20, So they called the apostles back in and commanded them to never speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.'”
What about the underground church? They call it the underground church because it has to go underground because the government said, “You can’t be above ground,” in China. The former Soviet Union rule. What’s going on in Iran right now and some of the Muslim countries? How about Corrie Ten Boom, who refused the Nazi’s order and hid Jews? What about them?
The second thing we need to ask ourselves is this: Is the refusal a hill to die on? And are you and I willing to suffer the consequences?
We all want to punch the bully in the face. But we don’t like to get punched back. Peter and John were imprisoned and beaten. Corrie Ten Boom is the only family member that survived the concentration camps.
What about the history of martyrs throughout the church? I heard a Chinese pastor say something to me in the 80s to a group of pastors. Send us your finances, send us your resources, but don’t send us your brand to Christianity.
Okay. The third thing is this. Convictions are varied and different, and we need to be people of grace. Not everyone will see the same things and respond the same way. COVID is 100% proof of that. It tore the church to shreds.
I just want to say something if I can get on a soapbox for a minute. The early church was worried about whether they were going to die for their faith, not wear a mask. Put it in perspective is all I’m saying. Let’s just put it in perspective. And I hated them as much as the next guy. Have you noticed how legalistic people are that are always right?
Legalism is easy. Grace is hard. Grace is, “I trust God to do what He wants to do in your life. And I’m going to trust God to do in my life.”
And what God has called Vintage to do, we’re going to do with all of our hearts and we’re going to be graced by people that may not agree with us, and we’re going to grace them. Correct? Because God hasn’t called Pastor Greg to pastor every church in this town, He’s called him to pastor Vintage.
Purpose to protect the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Be diligent to do that. What about interceding instead of arguing?
And the last thing is this: hear God and obey what you hear. Habakkuk says this in chapter two, “I will climb up to my watchtower, stand at my guard post.” I’m convinced the church hasn’t climbed up the watchtower and stood at their guard post. They got their information from CNN, NPR, or Fox News. Follow me? What about climbing the watchtower?
Belinda said in Teaching Team that the watchtower gives us a different perspective. How many know we needed a different perspective? I trust God right now. “There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.” Sometimes you climb the watchtower to hear God and what He’s saying to you. Sometimes you climb the watchtower so that you can get things off your heart to the Lord even in complaints.
But climb the watchtower stand at your guard post, church, please do it for me. Write down the answer plainly on tablets so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for the future. It describes the end and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait for it. Man, we love these kind of verses.
“For it will surely not be delayed. It will take place.”
Man, for so many, it’s like, “It’s time now! You missed your deadline Lord. It’s time now.”
Spend time in the watchtower. Write down what God is saying to you. And wait for Him to do what He says He’s going to do. Spend time in the watchtower. Write down what God is saying to you. And wait for Him to fulfill it.
I love Joshua when he ends it. He says “I don’t know what y’all are going to do. But as for me, in my household. I’m going to continue to serve Jesus.”
I don’t care what the federal government says. I don’t care what the state government says. I don’t care what you say. Or I say to you. I am going to choose to continue to serve God with all my heart in this season.
And I want to tell you something. I am so excited, as they say in Texas, about what God is fixin’ to do. Because I believe with all my heart that the darkest time’s right before the dawn. And just about when the church is saying, “I can’t handle it anymore,” God says, “Good, I’ll take care of it.”
Bow your heads with me please.
God, help us to climb the watchtower, write down what You’re saying, and wait for you. God I pray You help us obey You in spite of what we think or feel, because we’ve heard from You. Minister to us, Lord. I give Vintage permission to hear from You, do what You say, wait upon You. And I grace people in this place to do what You’re calling them to do. Not what I have to do.
Thank you, Father for your spirit. Thank you. You are the Sovereign Lord of the universe. Nothing catches You by surprise. Thank you Father. In Jesus’s name, amen.
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