Calvary Road Baptist Church

“ON BEING AN APPEALING CHRISTIAN” Part 1

 

In several places in God’s Word we are told that “the just shall live by faith.” Hebrews 12.14 enjoins us to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” And in Romans 12.18, the Apostle Paul urged his readers, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” To be sure, it is not always possible to live peaceably with everyone. We are assured in Second Timothy 3.12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” However, there are times when a Christian’s life is made more difficult than it needs to be because his approach to certain difficulties is fleshly and carnal, or at least ignorant and unskilled.

Are you serious about living for God? Are you actually committed to exalting Christ by the way you deal with different situations and react to the unexpected challenges that confront you each day. Or are you content to play the victim by always imagining yourself to be in impossible situations that God cannot possibly work for you in? I submit that you are never a victim as a Christian. I am persuaded that all things work together for good to them that love God, according to Romans 8.28, and that God’s plan is very likely for you to approach life in a fashion differently than you presently do.

I really do believe what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 21.1, that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Further, I believe this verse applies even when you find yourself in a jam that you do not like and cannot get out of.

Surely, you recognize that in most of life’s situations you are called upon to submit to the authority of another person, be it a police officer, a teacher, a boss at work, a mom or dad, a spouse if you are a woman, and a pastor if you are a Christian. Recognize that there appears to be four legitimately constituted authority structures God wants each and every one of us to submit to, as unto the Lord: Government, employer, family, and church.

Romans 13.1-7 clearly shows that governments, although certainly not created by God, with the exception of the nation of Israel, are nevertheless used by God for the welfare of all mankind, which includes God’s people:

 

1      Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

2      Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

3      For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

4      For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

5      Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

6      For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

7      Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

 

Further, we see that Christians ought to strive to be the very best citizens we can, in good conscience, be. Paul speaks to this in First Timothy 2.1-3:

 

1      I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

2      For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

3      For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.

 

In New Testament times, the most critical relationship that existed in the labor force was between the slave owner and the slave. Of course, many slaves turned to Christ and were saved. What is God’s will for the slave with regard to his master? The will of God is easy to discern in this matter, though even with God’s grace it is very hard to do. Turn to Ephesians 6.5-8 and read:

 

5      Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

6      Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

7      With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

8      Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

 

Now, turn to Colossians 3.22-25 and read:

 

22     Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

23     And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

24     Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

25     But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

 

Certainly, then, these guidelines which governed the very difficult circumstances of those Christians held in the bondage of slavery have application to the modern relationships that exists between employers and employees. If Christians who were owned by men against their wills were directed by God to submit to those slave owners, then any employee who can quit his job at will should certainly expect the principle of being submissive to apply.

Third, there is the family. From the beginning, the family has been God’s basic building block for a healthy society. So important is the family that many scripture passages are devoted to the relationships that should exist between husbands and wives, between parents and their children. One of the Ten Commandments concerns the child’s responsibility toward his mother and father, and another of the Ten Commandments deals with the relationship between a husband and wife. Children are commanded under all circumstances to honor their parents. Couples are commanded under all circumstances to remain faithful to their marriage vows. So serious are these relationships that under the Mosaic economy violation of these commandments, adultery by a spouse, or an open show of disrespect by a child, could very well result in death by stoning.[1] One of the most serious challenges to maintaining a civil society results from the absence in law of any requirement that marriage partners remain faithful to each other, as well as the absence in law of any requirement that children submit to and honor their parents.

Finally, there is the church. Much maligned and mistreated by most of professing Christianity these days, the authority our Lord granted to the church is second to no other institution in the world, as we see in Matthew 18.15-19:

 

15     Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16     But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17     And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18     Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19     Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

 

Notice how well established is the call for submission to the authority of church leadership, as we see in Hebrews 13.7 and 17:

 

7      Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

 

17     Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

 

As well, notice how well established is the call for submission by the church leadership to the authority of the church, First Timothy 5.19-20:

 

19     Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

20     Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

 

Therefore, we can see that the Christian life, if described using a single word, with respect to government, with respect to employment, with respect to the home and family situation, and with respect to the church, would have to be the word submission.

In principle, this is all neat and tidy. However, what if you are attempting to submit to the proper authority, but without success? What if you are earnestly seeking to submit and obey God with respect to keeping the law, with respect to following your husband’s leadership, with respect to being a youngster who obeys your mother and father, with respect to being a good employee, or with respect to being a good and spiritual church member? What if you are trying, but you find that the person over you is just plain wrong? Or, what if the person over you is just plain wicked? History is replete with examples of godly and spiritual men and women who earnestly sought to submit to ungodly rulers, but who had to draw the line when not even godly wisdom provided a way out.

The three Hebrews were willing to suffer death at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar rather than comply with his edict to worship false gods. Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den rather than comply with the declaration of Darius that forbad praying to God. Then there is Christian history since the time of Christ, where princes and kings outlawed gospel preaching, scriptural baptizing, and peaceably assembling for Christian fellowship and worship. We have John Bunyan jailed in Bedford for twelve years for preaching without being an ordained Church of England minister. We have others drowned for baptizing by immersion and for refusing to baptize infants. Still others were burned at the stake for the cause of Christ.

August 24, 1572, was the date of the infamous St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in France. On that day began one of the bloodiest holocausts in history. Suddenly, and without warning, French soldiers and Roman Catholic priests put into action a well-developed plan by falling upon the unarmed French Protestants known as Huguenots. Blood flowed like a river throughout the entire country. In one week, almost 100,000 perished. The rivers of France were so filled with corpses that for many months no fish were eaten. In the valley of the Loire, wolves came down from the hills to feel upon the decaying bodies of the dead. When news of the massacre reached the Vatican there was jubilation. Cannons roared, bells rung, and a special commemorative medal was struck to honor the occasion. The Pope commissioned Italian artist Vasari to paint a mural of the massacre, which still hangs in the Vatican.[2]

Persecution of Christians continues to this day, in Vietnam, in India, in Pakistan, in Egypt, in Nigeria, in East Timor, in Indonesia, in China, and in other countries. At times, the persecution can become brutal and martyrdom is the result. However, much of the time opposition does not rise to the level of bloodshed. Frequently the Christian’s cross to bear is working for a heavy-handed boss or marriage to an entirely unreasonable husband. At other times, it is an oppressive and arbitrary regime or ungodly parents.

This is where a consideration of the Biblical process of making an appeal can be found to be very useful. We recognize that there are times God will call upon you to take a courageous stand for what is right and risk it all for Jesus’ sake rather than compromise. When those times come, be sure and do right, even if the sky falls, even if you risk losing your life. However, also recognize that God frequently provides recourse in another direction. Usually, which is not to say always, God enables the truly wise, the truly spiritual, the truly submissive, to find recourse from the oppressive hand of authority, or the mistaken hand of authority, through the process of an appeal. Therefore, be encouraged. Be comforted. There is a way that oftentimes presents itself that lies between compromise and lying down like a doormat, on one hand, and standing defiantly against the authority on the other hand. That way is the wise use of a process of appeal that God has seen fit to graciously bless in ways too wonderful to recount in the lives of His children who, with meek humility, depend upon Him.

Over the next few weeks, I will rehearse with you a number of things related to a Biblical appeal. We might even do some role playing, recreating some of the frequent situations you might find yourself in, and showing you how to make an appeal. If you understand that making appeals is not a magic bullet, and that there are times when even the most discerning and wise Christian is denied a well thought out appeal, then you avoid needless disappointment.

Here is the schedule that I anticipate in the sequence in which I will bring them up: First, we will deal with the particulars of an appeal. Next, the power of an appeal. Third, prayer as an appeal. Finally, ascertaining when to appeal to someone in authority. When this is all done we may do some role playing.

 

First, THE PARTICULARS OF AN APPEAL

 

This evening I am going to give you a list of seven ingredients that form the recipe of a proper appeal to someone who occupies a position of authority over you. If you do not include all of these ingredients, these seven particulars, one of two things will happen: Either you will submit to the authority figure and will have no legitimate recourse in the face of his errors (or his foolishness, or his sins), or you will rebel against his authority and you will have compounded the problem you face by adding rebellion on top of it.

As far as I am concerned, those are not two really pleasant options. On the one hand, you are left to the decisions and wrong leadership of a fallible human being who may or may not be concerned for your welfare. On the other hand, you are faced with rebellion against a divinely constituted or divinely recognized authority. Rebellion is no option for the child of God, considering First Samuel 15.22-23:

 

22     And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

23     For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

 

The spiritual Christian would rather suffer without recourse at the hands of a person in authority, so as not to sin against God. This gives us reason to thank God that we are shown in the Bible how to appeal without undermining and without rebelling against a divinely instituted authority figure.

“But pastor, what about the time Simon Peter and the other apostles said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men,’?” To be sure, there are times when that person wielding authority over you is immovable and impervious to reason. In such cases, you have no alternative but to do God’s will in the face of stiff opposition. However, there are times when there is an opening for the judicious use of persuasion. When such an opportunity presents itself, it is far better to attempt an appeal than to prematurely give yourself up to martyrdom.

Here are the seven particulars that comprise a truly Biblical appeal. You might consider writing these down for now, and in the weeks ahead they will be elaborated on in detail.

 

First, to make an appeal you must have the right standing.

 

Right standing refers to having the right kind of relationship with the person in authority. It means that you are what you ought to be, even if he is not what he ought to be. It means that you are a worker who gives 8 hours work for 8 hours pay. It means that you only take sick days off when you are sick. It means that you are not suspected by your boss of plotting for his job with the higher-ups. It means that you honestly seek to ensure the success of that person in authority over you, whether it is your mom or dad, your boss, your husband, or your pastor. Right standing also means that you have done your part, or perhaps you have even gone the extra mile, to establish a relationship with the boss, or gone the extra mile to maintain your relationship with that parent or spouse, that forms the foundation of a legitimate appeal.

Think about this: No worker who is about to be fired for poor performance has the standing necessary to make an appeal to his boss. No wife whose husband is thoroughly disenchanted with her will kindly respond to an appeal from her. No child whose selfishness and hot temper are legendary has any right to expect her father to respond to her appeal. If you want to make an appeal that gets results, you have to have already done your spadework. Do not think you can just ignore relationships with people until you want something from them, and then you try to butter up the person in authority to get what you want. That is flattery and it is sin.

An appeal is not the manipulation of people that uses flattery. It is a legitimate way of requesting that someone in authority consider making a new decision based upon new information not previously evaluated, or now seen in a new light.

 

Second, to make an appeal there must exist the right basis.

 

Having the right basis for an appeal is so important. In the Biblical examples we will be looking at you will see the importance of having the right basis for an appeal. Here is what I mean by having the right basis. In reality, as I hinted a few moments ago, a Biblical appeal is not an attempt to persuade someone to change his mind. Trying to get someone to change his mind is insulting. It is tantamount to saying, “You’re too stupid to analyze facts correctly. Why don’t you do it again a second time, and this time try to get it right?”

Forget the whole notion of ever trying to persuade someone to change his mind. An appeal is not rightly seen as an attempt to change someone’s mind. An appeal is a request to someone in authority to make a new decision, based upon new facts or facts not previously considered.

Think about it for a moment. How is someone insulted when he is asked to considered new information, and then to consider a new decision? He is usually not insulted at all. This fits in with another feature of the correct basis of an appeal. For an appeal to have the right basis, and for the appeal to strengthen the position of that person’s authority and not undermine it, the appeal must be based upon what is in the best interests of the authority figure, not your best interests. If a kid cannot think of a good reason why it is in his dad’s best interest to loan him the car he has no business whatsoever asking for the keys.

Consider. Have we not been called to serve? Then what business do we have asking a person we are to serve to do something that is contrary to his best interests? No business at all. “Dad, can I borrow the keys to go run an errand for mom? That way you can finish the football game on TV and I can stop off at Jimmy’s house and wash the car for you.” What can dad say “No” when every single time he is appealed to he realizes that he will benefit from saying “Yes”? Mom gets her errand run, the car is washed, and he gets to finish his game. What thinking man would have a problem with that solution? So long as his son has the right standing with his dad, which is to say his dad has a measure of trust in his judgment and reliability, an appeal with the right basis goes a long way to achieving results.

 

Third, the right timing. The timing must be right.

 

This is such an important consideration. How critical that we remember that in so many ways timing is everything. I remember that every single time I asked my mom for something when she was trying to take a nap the answer was always “Yes.” However, I was not properly appealing to her at such times, but was really taking advantage of her. I knew that my mom’s semiconscious response would always be “Yes,”

Is your appeal legitimate? Will it stand up on its own merits? If it will, then why not present your appeal at a time and under situations that allow due and proper consideration of your request? Why not consider making an appeal when the person in authority is well rested, or when that person is not under a great deal of stress, or when he is not rushed? Why must you appeal to that other person at a time convenient for you, instead of at a time convenient for him? The reason this is so hard for some is that people are typically so selfish and inconsiderate that they never even think about when timing would be good for someone else. Are minutes before the Sunday morning service a good time to ask me if I can get someone else to do your job? Is Monday a good time to call me up and say, “Pastor, I know it’s your day off, but will you do me a favor?”

Factors, such as fatigue, such as schedule, such as finances, such as mood, and many other things, make the timing of your appeal critical. I have a stock answer for any request I hear that I cannot carefully consider: “No.” Many others in leadership answer the same way, as well they should. Be careful about timing.

 

Fourth, you must communicate the right information.

 

Remembering that appealing to someone in authority is not manipulating him be very careful to give correct and full information to the person you want to make that new decision. After all, if you do not convey accurate information, you are lying or deceiving. If he later finds out that you withheld vital information he will never trust you again.

A legitimate appeal should include information about both the negatives and the positives that need to be considered. This is especially important when you know that the negatives might very well cause the person in authority to make a different decision. However, if your appeal comes after prayer and seeking God’s blessing, then you will be confident that telling the truth and conveying all the pertinent information, both pro and con, will produces results that are pleasing to God. Remember that a critical ingredient to an appeal is trusting God to turn that person’s heart. Playing games with the facts will show you do not really trust God at all.

 

Fifth, you must display the right attitude.

 

We will spend considerable time expanding on this later, but the right attitude is the result of a spirit of meekness and humility. In other words, you are approaching that person with humility, not to make demands, but to ask for consideration and to request deliberation concerning something that is important to you and that you believe is important to him.

Boy, do some people have problems in this area. They are so arrogant, cocky, and defiant in their spirit that their countenance, their expression, their body language, and their tone of voice barely veils the threat of, “I’m asking you to do this. But if you don’t give me what I want I’m going to do what I want anyway.” What must run through the mind of someone who acts like this? Can such a mom who deals with her husband this way have any expectation of honorable and respectful treatment by her kids in the years to come? Will the man married to this woman be kind and considerate, or will he be domineering and defensive in the face of aggression from his wife? If he is a wimp, he will be his wife’s doormat.

What kind of boss needs a guy like this for an employee? Let me tell you something about supervision. If any employee comes in with an attitude and says, “If you don’t give me a raise I’m going to quit,” a sharp supervisor will jump up and say, “I’m sure sorry you have decided to leave. If you think it’s a good career move, I’ll be glad to write you a good reference. Sorry to see you go. The security guard will be right up to escort you off the property.” Ask some of our people if that is not the real world? On the other hand, if you go to your boss and say, “Boss? Is there any way that you and I can work something out so that I can continue to work here and make what I’m really worth in the industry? Professionally, and for my family’s sake, I need to make what I’m worth, and I’d like to make what I’m worth here. Can we talk about it?” Approach him like that and you will get a lot farther.

Attitude is so important. Why? Because God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, First Peter 5.5. Therefore, be humble in your appeal and resist the temptation to imitate the wicked arrogance of the world. As well, keep in mind that attitude is just as important should your appeal be denied as when your appeal is successful. Who you have appealed to once you will likely appeal to again. Therefore, your attitude after a request has been denied is the attitude that counts toward your next appeal, so be very careful about your demeanor, your countenance, and your spirit. If you believe God is in control then you believe God is in control.

 

I see that we are short on time, so let me abruptly conclude by making two observations before adjourning to return to our topic next Sunday night, Lord willing:

First, we know that sanctification is a gradual progression that occurs over the course of the Christian’s entire life. Thus, it would be naive to imagine Christians living in close communion with each other without sinning against each other, without grating on each other’s nerves, without conflicts of various types erupting from time to time. It will also be the case where we Christians find ourselves conflicted about a decision or course of action taken by someone in authority that we see to be wrong. We may even find ourselves at a crossroads that demands that we make a stand, unless we can use wisdom and discretion to avoid a perplexing situation. I could go on and on about the various situations you might find yourself in. However, the inescapable conclusion we are left with is that Christians must learn to exercise wisdom to influence the person in authority without undermining him, without challenging his authority, and without angering him, while at the same time extricating ourselves from compromising situations. This can sometimes only be done with a prayerfully considered, humbly presented, carefully worded, appeal.

Next week, Lord willing, we will deal with the remaining ingredients found in a scriptural appeal to someone occupying a position in which he exercises divinely instituted authority.



[1] Leviticus 20.10; Deuteronomy 21.20

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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org