(…continued) Cars cost a lot of money, so most people do some research before they buy one. They want to get the best car for the money they have to spend, and they want the facts. They will go on-line to learn what they can, or, they might ask someone whose knowledge and opinion they trust. They are looking for some authority on which to base their decision about a new or different car.
One should be at least as interested in their thinking about God, morality, and the life to come. But in this area, facts do not even matter for many people. They would tell you that it is what they feel in their heart that matters, what seems right to them, or, as we often hear, ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.’ But is that right? Who says? By what authority? Being sincere is always nice, but one should want to know if that is really all that is needed. And what does it mean to say you are sincere about something if you haven’t even bothered to look into it?
I am a minister, and so I should be big on faith– right? And I am big on faith; everybody is, even atheists. Atheist have to believe that everything got here all by itself, and that takes a lot of faith. We all eventually get around to some kind of faith. There just aren’t enough facts to get it all figured out on our own, and we have to start somewhere.
But not only am I big on faith, I am also big on facing those facts that we do have. Before I get around to putting my faith in something, I want to get a hold of as many facts as I can. And here is an important fact, one that we all have to get around to dealing with. I have come to the conclusion that it is an absolute fact that DEAD IS DEAD. There is nothing I see in this natural world that changes that fact. There is nothing I see to make me think that we are automatically off to a better place as soon as we die. If anyone tries to tell me any different, I have to ask “By what authority” they are telling me that.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live again.” But, ‘by what authority’ should I believe that? Why should I think that is anything more than words on a page? Is there any reason to think that the fact ‘dead is dead’ doesn’t apply to Jesus? Well, I thought that was worth looking into. So I did.
And now I do think there is a reason for those words on a page. I do believe in the accuracy and the authority of the New Testament when it says Jesus rose from the dead. And if someone has indeed risen from the dead, well, then that becomes a bigger fact than ‘dead is dead,’ and reason enough to readjust my thinking, especially if that Jesus says I too can rise from the dead if I believe in Him.
Some of you have perhaps never been troubled by such doubts. Others, perhaps are. Either way, the question of the chief priests in Matthew 21 who ask, “By what authority?” is one that demands your attention.
It is becoming common today to think it does not matter what we believe, and it does not matter what we do. But if you read the Bible, you will see that it matters a great deal what we believe and what we do. And if someone rejects the Bible’s authority arrives at a different conclusion, they still have to ask the question, “By what authority?” do I believe and trust as I do? (continued…)
Matthew 21:23 — Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
John 11:25 — Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
Matthew 28:18-20 — Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Philippian 2:9-11 — God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner.
–Ancient Jesus prayer