This Wednesday begins the season of Lent. As we prepare for Lent, Pastor Rob Sauers takes us into a study of the word “rebellion” as it is defined in God’s Word. Rebellion means “opposition to one in authority or dominance.” So the notion of rebellion presupposes the existence of authority. We often think of children rebelling against parents authority – not wanting to do what their parents tell them to do, and instead wanting to do those things their parents tell them not to do. Adults, too have engaged in many forms of rebellion from the household to the workplace. People don’t want to be governed and bound by a set of rules. We want what we want, when we want it, and we don’t want anyone or anything to get in our way.
The first rebel was Satan. Satan rebelled against God’s authority and was intent on setting himself up as the Most High. And when that didn’t work, Satan tempted Eve to rebel against God’s authority by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since those initial acts of rebellion, Satan has led mankind into a perpetual series of rebellions and the result has been chaos, destruction, and misery. God warns us in His Word that rebellion is not a harmless and natural part of growing up, but it is a desperately wicked part of our sinful nature. There are terrifying consequences for rebellion. Samuel warned Israel in 1 Sam 12:15, “if you do not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers.” Maybe the most frightening consequence of rebellion against God is that God simply allows us to destroy ourselves if we remain rebellious. In Romans 1 verses 21 and 28 Paul writes, “Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.… Just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
What was true of ancient man is still true today. We are all rebels at heart. We don’t want to listen to God. As Psalm 107:11 says we have “rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High.” We have that same sinful nature that has been passed on to us by Adam and Eve. Paul writes in Romans 8:7, “the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Since people have dismissed the concept of God, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” as Romans 3:18 says. Spiritual things are ridiculous to the natural man. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
By nature we rebel against God and as a result rely upon our own experience, reason, and feelings to guide our beliefs, attitudes, and behavior, and they won’t lead us in a godly direction. Our rebellion only leads away from God, and we deserve God’s punishment for our rebellion. Thank God that He has turned us from our rebellious nature. By His grace, the Lord leads us to repent of our sins, and as we turn to the Lord in repentance, the Lord comes to us with His love and forgiveness.
Maybe the best picture of this in all of Scripture is Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal son is the picture of rebellion. The prodigal son did not want to be under his father’s authority. He asked for his inheritance early so that he could go off and live as he wanted under no one’s authority. The father gave him the inheritance and so he went out and lived a rebellious life. But things didn’t turn out as He had hoped. He quickly got himself into trouble. The son repented, went back to his father to confess his sins and to beg his father to make him one of his hired servants. And how did the father react? With pure joy at the sight of his son. He saw his son returning and ran out to meet him. The prodigal son confessed his sins of rebellion, but couldn’t even get out the part about being treated as a servant. The father was so overcome with joy that he had his son back that he right away completely reinstated him as his son. In this parable, we are the prodigal son, and the Father is God the Father. And that’s how He reacts to us when we repent of our rebellious ways and turn to Him. It’s that same love that moved Him to send His Son to live the perfect life in our place, never rebelling against the Father’s authority and will. And then he went to the cross to die for all of our sins of rebellion. Thanks be to God for His love in the face of our rebellion.