Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Satan Temptation - Rebellion Against Authority

How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
13 For you have said in your heart:
'I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.'
Isaiah 14:12-14

The Satan Temptation identified:
The Satan Temptation is named for Lucifer’s rebellion against God which resulted in his ejection from heaven and can be similarly applied to any rebellion against rightful authority motivated by pride. In everyday life, it typically begins with a personality conflict, offense or disagreement with a leader. Over time and fed with more perceived offences, it grows into a temperament of resentment and resistance. Eventually the subordinate begins to seek opportunities to undermine and inwardly wishes to see the leader removed or struck down.

Although it is almost always disguised as a justified issue with a particular leader, any rebellion against rightful authority is really just a repackaged version of the oldest attempted governmental overthrow in the universe.

The Satan Temptation originates with feelings of impatience, frustration or dissatisfaction against someone in charge. As they germinate, these feelings create an open wound and manifest by either knowingly or subconsciously resisting the leader rather than submitting from the heart and trusting God. If allowed to grow unhindered, these wounded emotions will develop into resistance, betrayal, stalling, subverting, sabotaging, contending against, second guessing, usurping and/or, inwardly or outwardly, mocking a leader’s decisions, policies, personality or direction.

Who is susceptible?
The Satan Temptation can poison any angry, weak or willing person who is required to yield to somebody else’s will. It can destroy harmony in any organization: family, government, school, business, church, civic organizations, sporting teams, military, or any other entity requiring leadership. It is biting the bait of inner discord felt when under authority.

Correlated with Isaiah 14:12-14
The Satan Temptation consists of a private individual resolution (For you have said in your heart, I will…) to tear down a rightfully seated leader of any organization with the ultimate goal to ascend to that position. It is a desire to be out from under authority (to be exalted above the stars of God). It ultimately longs to be the person in charge of the organization (sit on the mount of the congregation). It is the rebellious spirit of Satan, ‘the god of this age’ (2 Corinthians 4:4) reaching through his human puppets, in his attempt to: be like the Most High.

The Satan Temptation: A Contagious Disease
Satan Temptation rebels tend to attract others, gathering supporters either openly or unwittingly. This is part of Satan’s original pattern as evidenced by Revelation 12:4 referring to one third of the angels having followed the devil in his rebellion and being cast to earth becoming his demon hoard. It also explains why unity is such an important issue with God (Psalms 133, John 17), obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22), and God hates someone who sows dissension among brethren (Proverbs 6:19).

Common victims of the Satan Temptation:

  1. If churches are fragmented today—ineffective in changing lives and introducing God’s Kingdom into society—it is largely because of our culture’s rejection of rightful authority and acceptance of the Satan Temptation. When church leaders realize that many so-called Christians will only obey Jesus within their own comfort zones and local church politics allow carnal people to gain influence through undermining spiritual leadership, the church cannot accomplish her mission. Therefore it is written, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
  2. If homes are contentious war zones instead of nurturing discipleship centers it is because of our culture’s love for the Satan Temptation. It is relevant to note here the seemingly forgotten fact that God addressed one of the Ten Commandments specifically to children. Number six, Honor thy father and thy mother (Exodus 20:12), clearly institutionalizes the importance of not only obeying but esteeming from the heart, parental leadership. This shows that learning to grow and prosper under (imperfect but legitimate) human leadership should begin at the earliest ages and become a life principle translating to success in every organized endeavor thereafter.

    In our modern society which nurtures resentment and rebellion towards traditional parental authority, many parents fear their children’s rejection and refuse to dive into their God-given roles as righteous authority figures. This is mainly because parents have been brain-washed by the culture to have resentment and unforgiveness towards their own parents and do not appreciate the value of righteous authority and discipline. It is a small wonder, therefore, that so many Christian children are lost to the world.
  3. The Satan Temptation can affect marriage. In fact, in marriage, husbands and wives each have certain established authorities over the other. For example: The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does (1 Corinthians 7:4). This shows why married couples, unwilling to yield to one another in kindness and tenderness, fall prey to hardened hearts towards each other.

    The Satan Temptation always reveals a lack of love and/or a hard heart toward someone in authority. Jesus said, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8).
  4. If companies lack productivity, sporting teams lack unity, armies are without morale, local, state or federal governments are corrupt and ineffective, it is many times, at least in part, because of the Satan Temptation.

    A businessman recently shared about one of his employees who is a friend of mine: “Yes, Joe is the nicest guy in the world,” he said, “as long as he doesn’t work for you. He is a terrible employee because he is always bucking against my decisions as boss. Everyone seems to love the guy but he is my worst nightmare.” Rebellion against authority is the mark of the Satan Temptation.

    In closing this section, it is a reliable general statement that any so-called Christian, not able to successfully follow a human leader is fooling himself if he thinks he can ever follow God. Truth is: God is much harder. That is why many Christians today prefer house churches, Christian TV, and informal fellowship where no one is in charge as opposed to true New Testament Church leadership. The Satan Temptation mindset ultimately desires freedom from any and all accountable authority.

Guidelines and balances for understanding authority:

Only God has Absolute Authority
Only God has absolute authority and therefore any leader who tries to force a subordinate to sin is directly opposing the only true authority in the universe. This leader is off target and God expects His people to ‘obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29). The book of Daniel gives wonderful insight into the way righteous people resist the unrighteous commands of a legitimate governmental leader.

Any leader who expects someone under his charge to lie, cheat, steal, mislead, participate in inappropriate conversation, look at inappropriate media, engage in illicit relations, or to break any clear principle of God’s Word, is set against God’s revealed authority.

Resentment of Authority is Nothing New
Many are suspicious and resentful of all authority. This is the devil’s character being projected through people and represents nothing new at all. In fact, essential disdain for God’s authority is the only plausible explanation of why one third of the angels apparently followed Lucifer in his original rebellion. Therefore our ability to honor and obey any human authority must first be rooted in our Holy Spirit-born commitment to trust God. Trusting God includes believing that He has the power to deliver His own from the abuse of harsh or unrighteous authority.

We are surrounded by reports and experiences of people who misuse their authority. That is why legitimate human authority exercised with good sense is a precious gift of God and followers must do everything in their power to support it. A righteous leader attempting to lead rebellious followers is a waste of a good leader but a perverse leader over righteous followers will be dealt with by God (see Pharaoh and Saul).

All Authority Besides God’s Authority is Limited.

  1. Marital authority is limited. Acts 5:1-10 tells of Ananias and Sapphira, the husband and wife team who colluded to lie to God about an offering. Both the husband and wife were given separate opportunities to come clean but each of them was harshly judged based on his/her own lie. This is an important example because it is common for married people to feel that they must disobey God in order to keep peace in their home. God’s Word is the highest authority in life and sinning to keep peace with husband, wife, child, parent, boss, friend, teacher, professor, pastor, brother, sister or anyone else is unacceptable to God.
  2. Parental authority is limited. An interesting New Testament verse says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). The qualification, ‘in the Lord’ is an important one, the inference being that parental authority, when exercised in opposition to God’s Word is contradicting God. Therefore, children should obey parents only so far as parents’ instructions are, ‘in the Lord.’ Again, all authority is limited to God’s revealed Word and any human authority, including parents, contradicting this constitutes a rogue use of legitimate authority and is rooted in the Satan Temptation.

    If a parent enforces right authority over his young child, this is good and right. However, if the same parent is still trying to control the decisions of their grown offspring, this is inappropriate and illegitimate. Parental authority is limited to an appropriate age and maturity level of the child.

    Actually, as the child begins to mature, his/her judgment needs to be trained, tested and tried time and time again and there is a long period when neither child nor parents have full authority. During this stage there should be an incremental movement towards the complete transition of authority to the young adult. The youth, during this phase, should be learning to look more closely to God as the main authority figure.

    This is illustrated in Luke chapter two when twelve year old Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem at the temple for three days while his parents have headed home. Mary finally finds him: “So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." 49 And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:48-49).

    Remember, parental authority is only a limited and temporary slice of God’s absolute authority. Jesus was already, at twelve years old, tending to God the Father’s business over Mary and Joseph’s authority. But He was still not done being obedient to His earthly mother and step-father. Immediately after this the Scripture says, “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:50-52).

    He returned home with them and was subject (obedient) to them. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was obedient to two common, flawed, imperfect and limited human authority figures and, as a result of his obedient spirit, increased in wisdom and stature and favor with both God and with other people. His time under Mary and Joseph’s parental authority must have served some benefit and His obedience to the Father God was intimately connected to his obedience to His parents—they were not exclusive of each other.

    Jesus’ being subject to Mary and Joseph was a legitimate but limited portion of God the Father’s authority, and part of His plan of preparation for the Son. As the Son was finally sent into His public ministry, the Father, said from heaven, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17)

    Also, Jesus even though submissive to His earthly parents and His heavenly Father clearly did not consider himself a doormat or puppet of some identity-stealing oppressive authority or over-parenting. He said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:28-29).

    “I always do those things that please Him.” Children of God should thrive under both human and divine authority: It is our proving ground.
  3. An employer’s authority is limited, sometimes a little more or less, depending on the level and contractual agreement of the position. It may be that an employer requires a dress code or particular protocol in phone etiquette when on the job. But when the employee is off the clock the employer does not have authority over what you wear or how you answer your phone. The authority is limited.
  4. Church authority is limited. The Church leadership is limited to her scriptural definitions which include organizational oversight and administration, five-fold ministry activity and development, leadership training and Christian discipleship; plus providing Bible education, worship services, producing the vision of the church and confronting sin issues in her member’s lives. The authority is limited.

    It is simply amazing how frequently people misunderstand church leadership. If I apply for work at McDonalds, they make it clear that I will be expected to wear certain clothes, say certain things to the customers, make the food in a very specific way, show up at a certain time and promise to pay me a certain wage. If a church, on the other hand, requires biblical criteria and ongoing accountability for membership, leadership involvement, ministry opportunities or ordination as deacon or elder, the church is frequently criticized as overly controlling.

    Not infrequently, new believers will come into a church and be offended at the leadership in place. A good number, in fact, seem to become genuinely stunned and disillusioned when they find that churches actually have human leaders and that the leaders are in charge. Remember, Lucifer wanted to ‘sit on the mount of the congregation’ or in modern terms, speak from the pulpit, and therefore, he is always trying to replace God’s man with his own. Church is the prize of the great cosmic war for the soul of the universe.

    A rule of thumb seems to be that a newly born again, formerly unchurched person who comes from a traditional loving healthy family will typically have no trouble acclimating to church life and understanding church authority. On the other hand, a formerly unchurched person or someone who has recently quit a church or who has had serious issues with his/her parents is far more likely to misunderstand, resent and rebel against church leadership.

    Some people are famous for reminding church leaders that they are not infallible… a reference to the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. However, legitimate leaders are leaders. Joseph and Mary were not infallible but it didn’t stop Jesus from being subject to them. John the Baptist was not infallible but Jesus submitted to his baptism. In fact when Pontius Pilate told Jesus he had the power to crucify Him or release Him, Jesus said "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11) Legitimate human authority is brought to you by God Almighty!
  5. Governmental, political, cultural, military, police, tribal, family, school and higher educational authorities are limited.

Obedience or Sacrifice?

Any author has legal ownership over his literary work, including the setting and characters he creates. God authored the universe and everything in it with His words (Genesis 1), Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and He also clearly proclaimed that all authority has been given to Him both in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

Therefore, God alone possesses all authority and no other. He has willed to release limited measures of legitimate authority to nations, families, churches, schools, armies, businesses and other human organizations in order to fulfill His will in time and space. Satan, the enemy of God, will always attempt to undermine, twist and destroy this.

God also loves obedience much more than sacrifice. The reason for this is that choosing sacrifice over simple obedience is filled with selfishness. It says, “I have made a decision when, where and how much I want to give. Nobody is going to tell me what to do. I feel good about myself because these people who run the organization do not know what they are doing. I want something with my own name on it. I am not going to obey anyone. I will be like the Most High

Obedience, on the other hand, is the denial of self and the humble acknowledgment of a position as servant.

The Roman Centurion

In Matthew 8 the Roman Centurion impresses Jesus deeply with his faith, based not on a deep knowledge of spiritual doctrine, but on his understanding of the universality of authority. He said, “…only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.” For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:8-10)

Five thoughts on the Centurion’s faith:

  1. The Centurion understood that Jesus was not a rebel but was covered under God’s authority carrying out orders. For I also am a man under authority
  2. The Centurion readily acknowledged that he was not himself the big boss but was under someone else’s authority making him a servant to his own leader. For I also am a man under authority
  3. The Centurion recognized that the way to properly exercise authority is to just speak a word to subordinates and a true leader should expect to see results. “…only speak a word, and my servant will be healed."
  4. The Centurion understood that the essence of authority is directing subordinates to obey your will. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
  5. The Centurion had no problem referring to subordinates as being under him. "For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me.

Legitimate authority is a universal force derived from God and flowing through Jesus Christ the King. It is used to build, establish, protect, produce great works, do awesome things and generally accomplish God’s will in heaven and on earth.

In closing: The Satan Temptation has weakened nations (Isaiah 14:12), destroyed families, torn churches to pieces and ruined companies, communities and armies. It originates from the hateful spirit of the original rebel and ignites selfish ambition, accuses the innocent, wins at all costs, hates authority, devises wickedness, trips up leaders, grumbles, complains, keeps accounts of wrongs and plants discord among brethren.

The Satan Temptation must be exposed and defeated because without right authority the Church will never have the unity necessary to please God. As long as the devil keeps marriage a sour institution, parents and children at odds, the Church afraid of her own people, schools teaching rebellion rather than humble obedience and communities divided, there cannot be the agreement needed to truly work together and usher in the Kingdom of God.

The unity necessary for the Scripture to be fulfilled requires not only obedience to God but the humble submission to legitimate human authority.