We all have people that are speaking into our lives and influencing us. We all have voices that we're willingly listening to and voices we're intentionally filtering out. Who are those voices for you? Who do you allow to play key roles in your decision making?
For the believer in Jesus Christ, His voice is supposed to be the dominant influence in our lives. The direction He points us in is to be the direction our lives take. But, because of our independent streak or because we might rather listen to our own voice, at times, His voice can be the one we start filtering out instead of being the one we allow to call the shots.
There are multiple places in Scripture where this is demonstrated, but one particular chapter is Luke 20. As we look at this chapter, it might be healthy to ask the question, "Who am I really calling Lord?"
I. Do I question Christ's authority in my life?
This past week, I had the privilege of teaching at a Summer camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. It was a great week and I was thankful to have the privilege to teach classes to groups of teenagers who, for the most part, seemed eager to learn. But of course, in every group, there are usually several children who seem to have the gift of making things difficult for teachers. In fact, there was one camper who made it a point to challenge the authority of whichever staff member was giving him instruction. We were regularly forced to correct him.
During the course of Christ's earthly ministry, there were certain people who felt justified in questioning His authority. In this particular passage, we're told that Jesus was teaching people in the temple and preaching the message of the gospel to them. The message of the gospel is refreshing to hear, whether it's the first time you're learning it or if you've heard it proclaimed many times. For many of the people listening, I'm sure this may have been the first time they were hearing this good news, but of course, there had to be people who interrupted and challenged Jesus.
Some recurring antagonists that show up in the gospels are the priests, scribes, and elders who didn't appreciate Jesus. In this passage, they began questioning Him while He was teaching. They wanted to know where Jesus got the authority to do things like, cleanse the temple of corruption as He had done not long before. I imagine they also wanted to know where He derived authority to teach the things He was teaching, to claim that God was His Father, to heal the sick, to proclaim salvation in His name, and to offer forgiveness of sin. It was clear that Jesus was teaching with authority, but they questioned His authority.
When we read the gospels, the religious leaders of that era tend to be presented in an unfavorable light. Because of that, we tend to write them off and dismiss their actions. But sometimes, as uncomfortable as it may be, it can be helpful to study their words and deeds with the goal of asking if those very same things are present in our lives as well.
Have you ever questioned Christ's authority? I'm not just speaking about the season of your life before you came to faith in Him. I'm also speaking about the season of your life that you're currently in the midst of. Is there anything Christ has ever said that makes you uncomfortable? Have you ever sensed that He was asking anything of you that you felt hesitant to respond to? Is there a false belief that you still cling to because you're trying to soothe your heart with it? Is there a pattern of behavior in your life that Christ has already revealed to you that He is eager to transform?
We may not question Christ's authority outright, but it's entirely possible that we struggle with covertly elevating ourselves as a higher authority in our lives than Him. What will it take for that pattern to change?
II. From which audience am I seeking approval?
In our church, the Lord has blessed many families with new babies over the past several years. It's something that I have been grateful to see, and it's also quite entertaining to watch these children grow up. They're all so different and they all have very unique personalities. Just like we see in adults, some of these children are shy. Others are extroverted. Some stick very close to their parents. Others run away from their parents every chance they get. I have also noticed that different children find different things funny, and I try to remember what makes these children laugh because it's fun to see if that can be drawn out of them on a Sunday morning. They make for a very interesting, and sometimes challenging audience.
No matter what we're doing, whether we're trying to make a child laugh, engaging in the tasks of our career, or performing in a band, we're all seeking the approval of some kind of audience. Carson Wentz, the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, often references this concept when he's speaking to groups. Carson is a Christian who has adopted the motto "Audience of One" as a form of motivation that keeps him focused. He speaks of Christ as the ultimate audience he's concerned about. He started a foundation related to this concept and he even has "AO1" tattooed on his wrist as a visible reminder of his desire to focus on Jesus.
Looking back at Luke 20, we can see that the spiritual leadership of that time was also focused on the approval of a particular audience. Until Jesus showed up and interrupted their routine, the priests, scribes, and elders were used to being the focus of a lot of attention. They were highly motivated by what people thought of them and how they were perceived. They enjoyed the trappings of the praise of their peers, and they didn't enjoy the fact that the people that used to revere their teaching were now hanging on every word of Christ instead.
So, instead of answering their question about His authority directly, Jesus did something creative that brought the motives of these men to the surface. He asked them His own question. He wanted them to answer whether or not the baptism John the Baptist had practiced was from God or from man. Immediately, they realized that this question put them in a tough spot. There were plenty of people present to hear their response, and many of the people understood that John was a prophet who was encouraging the people to believe in Jesus. If these leaders spoke poorly of John, they ran the risk of offending the people. And if they offended them, they would also lose their ability to lead and influence them.
To what degree might we also wrestle with this dilemma? There is an audience we're all concerned with, but is it the right audience? Are we playing for the crowd or are we focused on living out the chief purpose for which we were created? Christ created us to give Him glory. Is He the audience we are living to please?
III. Can I hear the voice of God?
When the religious leaders responded to Jesus, they did so in the weakest way possible. They chose not to take a side. They spoke like some politicians and other weak leaders try to speak. Words come out of their mouths, but effectively, they say nothing of substance. They want to keep everyone happy, so they resist taking a stand. In doing so, they make their lack of true conviction apparent.
So Jesus answered them accordingly. He answered them in the way God tends to answer those who have no faith in Him. Jesus replied, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." They got no answer, and there's a valuable lesson for us in that kind of response.
I want to hear God's voice, and I suspect many of you want to hear Him as well. I want Him to speak to me. I want to know His will. I want to understand His plan, but I'll never hear His voice, know His will, or understand His plan if I refuse to trust in Him. I'll never hear His voice if I refuse to acknowledge His authority as Lord of my life. I'll never hear His voice if my voice is the only one I'm really willing to listen to.
Scripture tells us a few things about hearing God's voice...
We're told that God wants to speak to us, but sometimes we harden our hearts. We're told that those who truly believe in Jesus will hear and recognize His voice. We're told that God speaks to us through His word.
I want to be a man who walks by faith in Christ, and demonstrates that by listening to His voice. Christ wants that for us all, but as the religious leaders referenced in Luke 20 demonstrated, we won't hear Christ's voice at all if we refuse to trust in Him as the ultimate authority over mankind and all creation. What voice are we listening to? Who are we really calling Lord? If we're struggling to hear God's voice could the problem be that we simply refuse to believe Him when He speaks, and our hearts have hardened to His calling?
An older couple had an ongoing semi-serious discussion about which one of them was losing their hearing. As time went on this became quite a bone of contention between them. The husband decided he would settle the issue once and for all. While his wife was enjoying a book in the living room he said in a loud voice, "Dear, would you like a cup of tea?" Upon hearing no response he progressed to the next room and said again in a firm voice, "Dear, would you like a cup of tea?" Still there was no reply from his wife. Lastly he went into the living room and stood directly behind the chair in which his wife was sitting. In an even louder voice he repeated, "Dear, would you like a cup of tea?" She turned to him with a slightly annoyed expression on her face and replied, "For the third time ... yes -Bible.org. Do we find God's voice hard to hear?
Jesus invites us to call Him Lord. We can spend our entire lives questioning His authority, or we can submit to it. We can spend our entire lives seeking the approval of a lesser audience, or we can give Him glory. We can spend our entire lives drowning out His voice, or we can listen to it. But when we finally listen, we find His peace, and our hearts experience true rest.
© John Stange, 2017