OBSERVATIONS ON THE COMMANDMENTS OF JESUS
The Rev’d. Allen Fisher
Your Lord is Whom You Obey
Jesus says to all of His followers, “If you truly love me, obey my commandments” (cf.Jhn.14:15;Matt.19:17), and “Go and make other disciples of all peoples baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (cf. Matt.28:19-20).
It would appear that with these two verses that there are three things Jesus wants his followers to be clear about:
- He expects his people to lovingly learn and found their lives upon his teachings (cf.Matt.7:24-27, The Message).
- Following Jesus is never only between Jesus and ourselves; a faithful follower of Jesus engages and invests in others.
- We are not simply to teach others what Jesus said but show them how to apply his teaching to their lives (Of course this part could be why many of us have avoided the Lord’s Great Commission; we have shamefully realized that we cannot lead a person to where we have not been).
Trust and Obey
So, what are these commands or teachings that Jesus expects everyone to observe and obey?
- TO ACKNOWLEDGE & ADMIT THEIR SEPARATION FROM GOD AND TO FEAR THE WRATH AND SEPARATION TO COME (Matt.10:28; 13:41-42;25:41,46;cf.3:7). We are to make sure the present separation from God (called God’s wrath) doesn’t turn into our eternal separation from God with all others cut off from Him. The concept of the wrath of God has been abused in the past decades as it has been preached through the lens of a less-than-accurate doctrine of salvation known as “Penal Substitutionary Atonement.” For a long time now, people have been taught that God is the one who destroys people in hell, but Jesus actually warned His hearers to, “Fear him, who can destroy both the soul and body in hell.” Jesus is saying that this entity who only desires to “steal, kill, and destroy” will be the eternal company of all who do not change allegiances now and accept the Father’s Salvation offered through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- TO REPENT FROM SIN AND BE BORN AGAIN UNTO GOD (Matt.4:7;Lk.5:32; Jhn.3:3,5,7). At the deepest level of their being everyone is to realize their antagonistic and rebellious condition separated from the only living and true God, and REPENT – that is having a change of heart and mind concerning sin. Upon repenting they are expected to turn to God for their life and purpose, putting their old way to death in Holy Baptism and BORN AGAIN to new life with a new heart and the Spirit of God dwelling in them.
- TO COME TO HIM FOR SALVATION, TO BELIEVE IN HIM AS HE HAS REVEALED HIMSELF IN THE SCRIPTURES, AND TO LOVE HIM MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE (Matt.11:28;Jhn.7:37; 14:1,6,11; Act.4:12). Everyone is expected to discover and actively acknowledge the unsurpassable worth and soul satisfying reality of the resurrected Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life back to God compared to all else in this world (cf.Matt.10:37-39). This can only truly happen after a person’s heart has been broken over sin and they have discovered Jesus’ forgiving love.
- TO FOLLOW HIM ON HIS TERMS AND TO CONTINUE HIS MISSION OF FULFILLING THE FATHER’S WILL (Matt.7:21;16:24-25;19:21;Lk.9:23; Jhn.8:12) After people come to Jesus for salvation He expects them to continue His mission of restoring people to God and bringing Him greater glory. To do this they are expected to crucify their sinful (self-centered, self-gratifying) passions daily and to place all of their lives and resources at Jesus’ disposal for His purposes. In denying themselves the fleeting pleasures of the world, they will begin to experience the abundant, lasting joy of oneness with God.
- TO SUBMISSIVELY LISTEN TO HIM AND MAINTAIN AN ABIDING RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM (Mrk.7:14; Lk.8:8;Jhn.6:56,68;8:31-32;15:4-5). There are things Jesus has commanded us to do so to ensure our continued connection to Him and His life-giving power. Everyone is expected to continue in His abiding practices: A.) Studying/applying His Word/Scripture; B.) Serving His Church; C.) Imitating His private practices to be able to Imitate His public actions; D.) Receiving His Sacraments; E.) Pursuing holiness; F.) Practice common prayer; G.) Teaching others His ways.
- TO ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE CHURCH JESUS IS BUILDING (Matt.16:15-18). When Jesus instituted Holy Communion, He did so understanding that there would be a church worshipping Him when He departed, thus everyone is expected to become a part of that worshipping community.
- TO HAVE A RIGHTEOUSNESS GREATER THAN THE SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE HYPOCRITES AMONG GOD’S PEOPLE (Matt.5:13-16,20;7:17; 23:27-28;Mrk.9:50). No one is exempt from their obligation to God simply because others have given such service a bad name; Jesus expects everyone to accept His inner, cleansing work and let it flow through them for the glory of God. They are to bear fruit worthy of repentance, not simply tack faux fruit on for the sake of appearance.
- TO DEVELOP AN ACTIVE, DAILY PRAYER LIFE (Matt.5:44;6:6-13;9:38; Lk.6:28; 11:13; 18:1; Jhn.14:13; 16:24). Everyone is to take seriously the gift of prayer-in-Jesus’-Name, and to make His point, Jesus teaches the who, what, when, where, why, and how of prayer to be followed. By such, the disciple begins to receive their new lives, identities, motivations, and desires “from above” and to let go of the old ones related to life from below.
- TO LOVE GOD WITH ALL THEIR HEART, MIND, SOUL, AND STRENGTH AND THEIR NEIGHBORS AS THEMSELVES (Matt.7:12;22:39;Mrk.12:29-30; Lk.11:42; Jhn.5:42-43;13:34-35). Jesus came to restore humanity to their original created state, therefore his followers are expected to cherish God with every capacity available to them and to demonstrate that love for God by their loving and serving everyone around them with the same commitment they have for their own well-being.
- TO WORSHIP GOD ACCORDING TO THE WAYS HE HAS APPROVED AND ACTIVELY EMPOWERS (Matt.4:10;15:8-9;Jhn.4:23-24). After receiving the Holy Spirit and discovering God through Jesus, they are to obey the Spirit’s leading in affectionately expressing God’s worth in ways inspired by God’s Word.
- TO END THEIR LOVE AFFAIR WITH BOTH POSSESSIONS AND DAILY-LIFE NECESSITIES (Matt.6:19-34;Lk.12:32;Matt.108,:24-31;Lk.12:32-34;13:23-24; 16:10-12; 18:23-25). Wrongfully placed affections and pursuits for physical pleasure, materialism, approval, and even life itself make it nearly impossible to do all that Jesus commands thus all must be made subordinate to our love for Jesus and His Kingdom. Everyone is expected to strive to enter the narrow gate of salvation by waging war against all that Jesus teaches to be sin, and to seek heavenly rewards for themselves so to be free to give generously to those in need.
- TO END THEIR LOVE AFFAIR WITH THEMSELVES (Matt.5:3; 18:3-4; 23:12; Lk.17:10; 18:13; 20:46-47; 22:26). Every follower of Jesus must seek His grace to put to death all pride and desire for the praise of men, because they are blatant contradictions to the way Jesus calls everyone to live – as childlike, humble-servants.
- TO REPLACE INHERENT, RETALIATORY ANGER WITH SUPERNATURAL FORGIVENESS, LOVE, AND MERCY (Matt.5:21-22,44-47;7:5;18:21-22; Lk.6:27-35). Every follower of Jesus is to emulate Jesus, and base, instinctual-anger will discredit the follower’s witness as a child of God. Sacrificial love is to be the defining characteristic of God’s people even in the face of evil and unjust persecution. They are to do good for those who hate and abuse them.
- TO BE GENUINE AND TRUTHFUL (Matt.5:33-37). Again, everyone is expected to bring glory to God, so they are expected to be truthful as He is truthful.
- TO PROTECT MARRIAGE (Matt.5:31-32;19:4-12;Mrk.10:11-12; Lk.16:18). Jesus’ followers are expected to personally and faithfully represent Him to the world and part of that is to represent His sacred love for His Church and vice versa through their marriage. Like in judging others, we are to take care of our own marriage before fixing others.
- TO BE GOOD CITIZENS (Matt.22:15-21). Everyone is to submit to their government as a demonstration of their Lord’s humble servitude and as a way to serve God through the institutions he has allowed to rule.
- TO SHOW OTHERS HOW TO OBSERVED EVERYTHING HE HAS TAUGHT THEM (Matt.9:37-38; 28:18-20; Lk.14:23;15:7; Jhn.20:21). All those who have found new life in Christ are expected to lead others in discovering the blessing for themselves.