Authority or Power
Behold, I have given you authority... over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven. (Luke 10:19-20)
Upon reading today's selection from My Utmost for His Highest, it is becoming clearer to me that God's government is free of the contamination that comes from the use of force. Because of our counterfeit definitions it is often hard for us to discern many of these clues, but it is here for those who listen to the Spirit speaking to the heart. This is even highlighted a few verses later in Jesus' own words.
Authority from heaven's perspective looks and acts very different from authority as perceived and practiced by most people in this world. We are very familiar with the use and abuse of so-called authority by those in power who want to exercise control over those under their charge. But in these verses Jesus makes it very clear that heaven's view of authority does not involve the same kind of power that the enemy uses and promotes.
Very often, under the deceptive influence of false assumptions about power and authority, we pray and seek for superior power to, in essence 'out-gun' the enemy. Popular christianity along with most other religions, assumes that what we need to overcome is more power to overwhelm the power of our enemies. But all through the teachings of Jesus this is discredited. What I see in these verses is a condensation or a peek into God's principles of relating to others.
Jesus says here very explicitly that we are not to rejoice in the idea that we seem to have more power than our enemies simply because it becomes apparent that the evil spirits become subject to us when we live in the true authority of God. It is a very dangerous temptation to slip into thinking that God wants to equip us with superior power similar to the kind of power that the enemy uses to control others. To fall into this trap is to actually step outside of the real kind of authority that was given to us and to slip into the mode of thinking about authority that the world assumes is true and legitimate.
What I am starting to see more clearly here is a contrast between the model of life the enemy has surrounded us with all of our lives and the model of living that God promotes like the rest of the universe lives in. Humans and evil spirits believe in the use of power and intimidation and force to accomplish their desires and purposes in life. But actually this is an illusion based on the perception that the physical realm constitutes the majority of reality for us.
But reality is not primarily based in the outward physical realm that we are so used to here; it is far more importantly centered in the spiritual, inner life of the spirit. Everyone of us has a spirit and is effected by spirits around us – human, demonic and divine. Because we have been largely blinded to this truth by the deceptions of the enemy and by even religion itself, we live largely in darkness as to where the real battles are taking place. We tend to focus on how much external control our religious group has in this world instead of what is going on deep in our own hearts and who has the influence and authority where it really counts.
In this text I see Jesus trying to get our attention about this problem. What He is saying here is that we must back away from focusing on a desire to gloat over our enemies because it appears we have more power than them. What He is also instructing us to do here is to shift our focus to where the real issues lie, to our perception of our true identity and our relationship with God.
True authority comes from our relationship to God, not from some perceived power that we have over those who oppose us. What is touched on here is our perception of our own identity. The battle over what we feel about ourselves and about God is very close to the center of the real battle that we are faced with each day. Instead of thinking that our Christian battle is to gain more power and influence in this world over others, we must realize that the true battle takes place deep in our own hearts and is centered on how we perceive God thinks and feels about us, far below the intellectual assertions that we think we believe.
This statement about our names recorded in heaven is far more deeply profound that what it first appears to be. To begin to really grasp with my heart that my name is recorded in the Book of Life in heaven is much more than the notion that I am on some permission list to get into heaven when Jesus comes. It has everything to do with understanding and appreciating my true identity in Christ. It has to do with beginning to perceive reality and relationships in a totally different light, from a deepening sense that I really am a royal son of the highest Monarch of the whole universe.
But again, my perception of how that Monarch exercises His authority will color greatly how I respond to that belief that I am a prince of royalty. If my perceptions of God are still rooted in the idea that He uses force and power like Satan does to get His way, then that false thinking is going to distort all the relationships that I have with those around me and I will fall into the very trap that Jesus is warning against in this text.
However, if I begin to understand the real truth about God and His radically different way of exercising authority that is based on selfless love, compassion, service, forgiveness and humility in the face of force and abuse, then the results that will be seen in my life will begin to reflect the true character of the kind of royalty as heaven views royalty. For the royalty of heaven and the kingship model of heaven is very little like the counterfeit systems of royalty on this earth.
The fact that this is going to be very hard to swallow for most people, especially people steeped in traditional religion, is exposed in the very next verse.
At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight." (Luke 10:21)
Realize that the wise and intelligent spoken of here was not particularly the pagans and philosophers of the world. Jesus was speaking of the religious elite who were well versed in the Scriptures and were the highest authorities of religion in His day. And I believe that the very same is true yet today, for religion has always tended to mingle human philosophy and assumptions with Scripture to come up with an amalgamation of doctrine and beliefs that reflect human and counterfeit thinking more than the real truth about God and heaven's perspective. Therefore it is always dangerous to assume that because our beliefs came from religious teachers or preachers that they must be trustworthy and true.
According to Jesus' own words here, the kind of people that perceive what Jesus is trying to get across are considered to be mere infants in intellect compared to the standard of measure by our thinking. This will cause many to be offended and insulted, but nevertheless the words of Jesus are still true. The real question is whether we will move into belief and embrace the perspective of Jesus or whether we will insist on following what feels normal and religious and stay with what feels comfortable.