Sunday, April 30, 2017

We ask the questions around here.

The Word for today:
Luke 19:47 -20:47
mark this: Luke 20:1-3 --
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, "Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority."
He answered them, "I also will ask you a question. Now tell me..."
In Jesus' day, teaching was typically a tedious chain of authority citings:
"Rabbi Edelsheim says…but Rabbi Simeon says…while Rabbi Meir permits this alternative interpretation…"
Derived authority was the basis of their teaching.
Into this tradition stepped an unschooled rabbi from Nazareth who, it was reported, taught like this:
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.'
But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment." (Matthew 5:21-22)
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28)
No citations, no references to established scriptural experts. "Who is this man," they wondered, "and by what authority does he teach? Everybody knows that Nazareth is nowhere, filled with nobodies!"
The clash was inevitable. This itinerant teacher was a threat to their positions, to their status--and to their "authority" in the synagogues of religious Israel. He had to be confronted and stopped.
So the religious establishment brought their best and brightest to the task:
Now it happened on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted him…(Luke 20:1)
What a scene. Dozens of the priestly and academic elite of Israel approached the country-bumpkin Galilean. It was time for the city boys to take charge:
"Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?" (Luke 20:2)
Whenever they questioned Jesus' authority, he silenced them by responding with his own questions:
"I will also ask you a question. Tell me,  John's baptism--was it from heaven, or from men?" (Luke 20:3-4)
Jesus' questions put them on the spot, positioning his detractors directly between a rock and a hard place. They could not answer without incriminating themselves:
"If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men,' all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet." (Luke 20:5-6)
Jesus had forced them to "plead the 5th amendment"--
So they answered, "We don't know where it was from." (Luke 20:7)
Luke (20:40) states that Jesus' questions and answers were so amazing that no one dared to confront him again.
You will be confronted about your faith in Jesus and about the authority of scripture. You won't need to go looking for this fight; the fight will come to you. When it does, do not back down:
Dear friends, I've dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting--begging!--that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. (Jude 1:3/MSG)
In the meantime, train for that day by learning more and more about Jesus and his Bible:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with courtesy and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
Begin to rehearse questions which transfer the burden of truth to your opponents:
  • What do you believe in? Why do you believe that?
  • Where do you derive your standards of right and wrong?
  • By what authority do you pronounce your particular version of right and wrong?
  • What are the consequences, in individual lives, of living by your standards of right and wrong?
  • What have been the real-world effects of programs which incorporate the tenets of your philosophy?
  • What real hope can your philosophy offer? What is this hope based on?
  • Will your philosophy still have billions of followers in 2000 years? Followers from every corner and culture on earth, including millions who live with ridicule and exclusion and threat because of their faith? Followers who range from the illiterate to the most brilliant minds of their day--as Jesus' followers, in every era, have?
There, that ought to get you started.
In this regard, as in all things, let's strive to be like Jesus. Let's be in constant scriptural training. Let's take the offensive by putting opponents on the defensive, keeping them on their heels, and tripping them over their flimsy suppositions. (But while on the offensive, don't be offensive. Remember courtesy and respect! -- see 1 Peter 3:15, above).
The so-called wisdom of the present hour is less than veneer-thin. The hypotheses that would assail the gospel of Jesus Christ are easily refuted and shredded:
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
We are sons and daughters of the LORD God Most High.   Like Jesus, we ask the questions around here.

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