Whose Authority?

John 12: 49 – 50               NLT

I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”

This is the model of ministry and it applies to clergy as well as lay people. We need only speak what the Father tells us to say.

Pulpit ministry can be challenging and so can ministering to your friends. We, however, make it harder than it was supposed to be. I have come to take this quite literally though. If the Father didn’t speak to me today, you wouldn’t have a Word of the Day. The NASB version reads, “For I did not speak on My own initiative.” Well, if Jesus did not speak unless the Father initiated it then I suppose he would have remained silent. Therefore, unless the Father gives me something to write, I don’t see the point in writing anything.

A lot of what we give people is actually our opinion. Jesus didn’t speak from opinion but from the inspiration of the Father. Jesus didn’t even recognize his own authority to speak. He deferred to God. Now, if Jesus didn’t speak from his knowledge and authority, who are we to offer anything other than what the Father gives us to say?

It is quite humbling. I also think many seminaries miss God right here. Students are taught how to craft a sermon and how to deliver one, but I wonder how often they are taught to follow only the inspiration of God rather than speaking from knowledge or their education. One might think, well, it’s Saturday, I’ve got to have a sermon for tomorrow but, if God doesn’t give it, I wonder if we are best to remain silent. I know that feeling.

There are days I sit down to write and feel as empty as can be. I pick up my Bible and look for the inspiration of the day. There are times when I have read, flipped pages, read again and can’t find a single thing that seems to have an anointing on it. I’ll pray, whine, importune, and read again. Sometimes I think there is nothing to say, nothing to write. However, as of this writing we have produced 3050 Word of the Day, daily devotionals. Never once has the Father let me down. Sure, I panicked a time or two but now I just say, “Dad, if you want a Word of the Day for tomorrow, you are going to have to write it or tell me what you want.” I refuse to worry about it. If our Father cannot provide a Word of the Day, then one will not be sent. You do not need what I have to say. You only benefit from a Word from the Lord.

The same is true when you witness to others or have friends who ask questions. The only valid answer is, “Let’s see what the Word says.” If you think you are going to learn a bunch of stuff and then lead others, you are going to find yourself and your followers out in the tall weeds. If Jesus didn’t teach, lead and preach in his wisdom and through his authority, then we are certainly not qualified. And rather than taking that as a put down, I think it should relieve you. God definitely does not require you to do something Jesus wasn’t even required to do. So, that weight should fall off your shoulders realizing that your Father provides and if He does not give you the words to say, then you are not required to say anything.

There is a really big and important lesson in this, and this lesson applies to preachers as well as laity. If Jesus didn’t speak of his own initiative but only said what Father God told him to say, then that is good enough for me too.


John 5: 30

I can do nothing of my own initiative.

If Jesus could do nothing of his own initiative, what makes me think I can do anything of my own initiative. I am trying to get a big revelation of this verse and what Jesus was conveying to us. In verse 19 of this same chapter Jesus said that he could do nothing of Himself, only what he saw the Father doing. As I pondered these couple of verses the story of Jesus walking on the water came to mind. I am trying to understand what happened as Jesus approached the water.

Jesus earlier sent his disciples on ahead of him in the boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. As Jesus prepared to follow them I presume he walked down to the water’s edge. Did he look for a boat for hire or one to borrow and there were none available? What happened next? If Jesus only did the things he saw his father do then he must have had some sort of revelation from God; a vision, a memory, about walking as a viable means of transport across bodies of water. Did He see in his spirit God walking before him on the water and so just launched out following the father? Did God show Jesus an image in his mind’s eye of Jesus walking on the water with God the Father?

I just don’t know but we know that Jesus did nothing of his own initiative. Therefore, God initiated Jesus’ stroll on the sea of Galilea. We also know that Jesus could do only those things which he saw His father do so God had to have, in some way, demonstrated walking on water. I am guessing that God didn’t sit down on the edge of the lake with Jesus and explain the physics of water molecule cohesion to him. He didn’t give him a course on water walking, I don’t believe. No, it seems to me that perhaps Jesus had to receive the concept by faith. 

Jesus didn’t explain the physics to Peter either. Peter saw Jesus walking on the water and emulated him. Paul told his disciples, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11: 1).  That is our essential model. Jesus is only doing what he witnesses his Father doing so we are to imitate Jesus as he imitates the Father.

Stop striving, stop trying, stop planning all your moves. Put your eyes on Jesus and just walk.