Monday, August 13, 2018

Does authority matter?

Two years ago Time Magazine published a story about an incredible mountaineer.

Ed Viesturs is widely regarded as this country’s foremost high-altitude mountaineer. Ed has summited Mount Everest seven times. He didn’t accomplish this feat until his third try in 1990. He had made it close before that but had to turn around, 300 feet from the summit, due to grueling weather conditions.

Many climbers would have pushed on, facing the possibility of death, but not Ed. He is known as a conservative climber who understands that climbing is a round trip.

Not only has Ed summited Mount Everest seven times, he is also the only American to summit the world’s fourteen highest peaks without supplemental oxygen. In his interview with Time Magazine Ed referred to the mountain as the final authority in a climb. Ed says: “We call it listening to the mountain. The mountain decides what you get to do.”

For Ed, the mountain is the final authority in his decision making process. Who is the final authority in your decision making process? What is the main authority in your life? Is your main authority local government; maybe the police or other law enforcement? Is your boss at work your final authority? Maybe you live with your parents and you look to them as your final authority.

We each have different authorities we listen to and focus on. In face there are some aspects of our life that each of us have allowed to control our actions at times.

Different Sources of Authority 

Let’s just look at five different authorities people turn to when making decisions in their life.

Emotion- The first source you allow to guide your decision making process is your emotions. God wants to speak to your heart. He loves your emotions, in fact it was He who created them. It is good to be in touch with your emotions. Think about a time in your life when you had a “good feeling about this” and it came out to be true. Your emotions were right in directing your heart.

On the other hand, your emotions can be misleading. People have come to speak with me before and said something like: “Neal, I don’t feel God in my life right now.” Good thing God isn’t a feeling. Just because you don’t feel God, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. God is an eternal being. Emotions can be misleading in your life and take you places you never wanted to go. Invite God to speak to you through your emotions but don’t let them be the final authority in your life.

Experience- The next source of authority is past experiences. The best way to describe experience is information that comes from a direct encounter, participation or observation you’ve made. If you’re a Christian, you should expect to encounter God in your life. God will use your experience to open doors and shut doors in your life. The longer you walk with Him, the more data points you will have on your experiences with Him.

But experience, like emotion, can be deceptive. Some people try to manipulate God based on their past experiences. It can easy to think that if God worked one way in your past that He will always work in that same way for your future. But you can encounter a situation where God doesn’t in the exact same way because He is teaching you something new. If your experiences are contrary to the word of God, then the Bible needs to win as the final authority.

Reason- God wants you to use the mind He’s given you. God has given you the ability to think critically, reason with others, solve problems and make wise decisions. Whether you’re a believer or not, He has endowed you with this ability. Your abilities in this area are by no means perfect, but God desires for you to be reasonable. As with emotion and experience, reason is not perfect. There are times when you misinterpret or misunderstand data. Think of a time you thought you had all the information to make a smart decision but you didn’t, and it turned out poorly. You can never have all the information, therefore you cannot allow reason to be the main authority in your life.

Google- Let’s move the fourth authority on our list. She always is right. She tells me how to get places. She never backtalks to me. You know who I’m talking about, right? I’m talking about Siri or the internet. The internet is the last source of authority we allow to direct us. When was the last time you were with someone and you ran into a problem where you didn’t know the answer? Maybe you were talking about a recent story and wanted to fact check it. One of you most likely went straight to Google to find the answer. The internet is a great source of information but we all know you can’t believe everything you read online.

The Bible- The final authority you need in your life is the Bible. You might be familiar with the Bible, but let me give you a crash course. The Bible is a collection of sixty-six books and its comprised of two main sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The oldest books in the Bible date to around 1500 years before Christ. The last book in the Bible dates to the end of the first century. You’ve probably heard the Bible referred to as “God’s Word.” This means that when the Bible speaks, God speaks. The Apostle Paul told his disciple Timothy that all Scripture is God breathed
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Bible needs to be the ultimate authority in your life.

When we look at these five different sources of authority, they are all good. God gave us emotion, experience and reason to help us process what comes at us in life and the internet is a helpful tool, but we can never allow these top four to be the final authority. If you’ve found yourself relying on any of these more than on God’s word, look at Psalm 119 and see why it might be time for a change.

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