Commands of Christ: 53

Resist temptation radically.

“Woe to the world because of things that cause sin!  Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!  If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the fiery hell.”  Matthew 18:7-9

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into hell.   And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,  where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”  Mark 9:43-49

If we have come to terms with the necessity of dying to ourselves to enter the Kingdom then this command should not even “raise an eyebrow.”  Cutting off a hand or foot or gouging out an eye from a dead person is not a painful process.  Six times in the gospels Jesus said that whoever wanted to save his life in this world would lose it, but whoever loses their life for His sake will find it for life eternal.

Jesus’ command makes it quite clear that anything that separates us from God must be dealt with severely.  It is literally a matter of life and death.  Sin is not something to be flirted with.  We cannot please ourselves and serve God.  If we think we can then we have deceived ourselves and not truly chosen to follow God.  In our own strength, we cannot do this, but if we have truly repented and believed in the Lord, then through the power of the Holy Spirit whom He has given us, we can follow.  If we have not truly turned to follow God, we must do so, or we will be separated from Him for eternity in hell.

Commands of Christ: 52

Do not hinder anyone just because they are not in your group.

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  For whoever is not against us is for us.  Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, truly, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.”  Mark 9:38-41

Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.”  Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Luke 9:49-50

This is reminiscent of what Paul says in Philippians 1:15-18: “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

It seems that in our day there are a lot of self-proclaimed servants of Christ who draw the lines more and more tightly in identifying who are legitimate disciples.  They make major distinctions based on minor issues, while ignoring major considerations such as love.  Pride is rampant, based on comparing themselves with others.  Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 where He prayed for unity among His followers ignored.

Paul says in Romans 14:4, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.  And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

There are lines that need to be drawn.  Those lines are between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness.  There are only two camps.  Those who are for the Lord and those who are not.  I love the time when Joshua was getting ready to attack Jericho.  In Joshua 5:13-14 it tells us, “Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”  Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”  

Whether people are for us or not is irrelevant.  The question is, are they on the Lord’s side.  Let’s not shoot His allies.

Commands of Christ: 51

Become like children.

He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”  Matthew 18:3-5

Pride is one of the most insidious sins.  Jesus’ teaching here is in the context of His followers asking Him who (among men) was greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.  Essentially, Jesus is saying the God is the greatest.  It is nonsensical to ask who is greatest (among men) in the Kingdom.  None is worthy.  None has power in themselves.  Only the humble can enter.  Only those who recognize they are helpless can receive God’s power.  We should rejoice in our relationship with the Lord and glory only in Him.  The most humbly grateful soul is the greatest in the Kingdom.

Commands of Christ: 50

Anyone who wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”  Mark 8:34-35

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?  For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.”   Matthew 16:24-26

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:37-39

“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:26-27

God’s salvation is free, but it costs everything.  We cannot receive His gift of life without emptying our hands of anything else that is in them.  Giving Him our allegiance means having no competitors for our affections.  He is (and must be) of far more importance to us than our lives, than any earthly relationship, than all our possessions.  We are bound to Him entirely, with no reservation.  We will obey Him and follow Him no matter what the cost, no matter what the sacrifice or risk.  This is not optional.  These are the terms which the Lord clearly communicated.  Our decision and resolve will be tested.  By His power and grace He will enable us to obey and follow through the fire and through the flood, with the temptation to ease and comfort, when alone or in the midst of a crowd going another way, and every other circumstance.

Commands of Christ: 49

Look out for the teaching and hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

Jesus said to them, “Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  They concluded among themselves, saying, “It is because we have brought no bread.”  When Jesus became aware of this he said, “You of little faith, why do you conclude among yourselves that it is because you have no bread?  Do you not yet understand, and do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many wicker baskets you took up?  Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up?  How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread?  Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:6-12

Meanwhile, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot.  He began to speak, first to his disciples, “Beware of the leaven—that is, the hypocrisy—of the Pharisees.”  Luke 12:1

He enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Mark 8:15

Jesus was telling His followers to be careful what they listened to.  On another occasion (Matthew 23:1-11) He warned them that the real problem was not the content of their teaching but the conduct of their lives.  In God’s eyes, those are connected.  Hypocrisy, to do one thing and say another, is a serious matter.  The priorities of the Pharisees were out of order.  They valued appearance above substance.  They valued honor from men more highly than honor from God.  This corrupted their lives and therefore their teachings.

We need to be careful to examine our motives and live for an audience of One.  Our lives need to match our words.  We need to guard our hearts from hypocrisy.

Commands of Christ: 48

Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures eternally.

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” John 6:27

This is very reminiscent of Deuteronomy 8:3, which Jesus quoted at His temptation in the wilderness after His baptism: “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  This is in the context of Jesus calling Himself the Bread of Life and chastising people for following Him because He fed the multitudes rather than because they recognized who He was.

It seems that people are in the habit of confusing mere physical survival with the abundant life which God intends for us.  The former is temporal.  The latter is eternal.  The former is a pale shadow of the glorious reality of the latter.  Let us never be distracted from pursuing the abundant life the Lord promised by concern for meeting temporal needs.  That is a mistake of infinite proportions.

Commands of Christ: 47

Look up and see the fields ripe for harvest.

“Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?  I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.  The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.  For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” John 4:35-38

Jesus is asking His followers to see things from God’s perspective.  In the way that man sees grain to be harvested and gathered into barns, God sees the souls of men to be brought into His Kingdom.  That harvest has eternal consequences.  God has been at work, preparing the harvest.  Other servants of God have labored greatly in removing stones from the field, preparing the soil, sowing seed, providing tools, and so on.  Where and when the harvest is ready, we must reap.  We are responsible to watch for that readiness and take advantage of it so the harvest is not wasted, rotting in the field.  We need to look up, away from our own personal concerns, to be alert for such opportunities.

Commands of Christ: 46

Do not think that I came to establish peace on earth.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.  For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’ Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Matthew 10:34-39

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.  From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three;  a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”  Luke 12:51-53

Be assured, Jesus is offensive to anyone who wants to live for themselves.  He brings division to any group that has any agenda other than His Kingdom and glory.  If we view Jesus as some gentle soul who just wants everyone to get along, we misunderstand Him.  He deeply desires peace and unity, but a peace and unity under God.  Unity on His terms, under His direction, for His purposes.  He has drawn a “line in the sand.”  Everyone is either for Him or against Him.  We need to be very clear on that fact.  If we claim we are His, that means our lives are His.  Our relationships are His.  Our possessions are His.  He has all our allegiance and time and energy and resources.

Commands of Christ: 45

What I speak to you quietly, announce loudly.

“What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”  Matthew 10:27

Jesus said this in the context of instructing His followers not to be afraid as He sent them out for ministry.  He was telling them to be bold in their service of the Kingdom.  He had just told them that they were being sent out as lambs in the midst of wolves.  He had told them they would be beaten and arrested for identifying with Him.  He said they would be betrayed even by family members.

He was about to tell them not to fear death.  He was about to tell them they had to love him more than parents or siblings or children.  He was about to tell them they had to be prepared to die for Him.

In this passage Jesus tells His followers that their public and bold acknowledgement of Him was tied to His public acknowledgement of them by Him before God the Father.  It is interesting that in the book of Acts, the most frequently mentioned result of people being filled with the Holy Spirit is boldness.  If we are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of us.  Be bold in living for the Lord!

Commands of Christ: 44

Do not fear man, but fear God.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.  I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.”  Luke 12:4-5

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matthew 10:28

People have a tendency to become absorbed by the things of this world.  They desire things of this world.  They fear things of this world.  They are proud of things of this world.  This is a grave mistake.  This world is temporary.  The Kingdom of God is eternal.  The new heavens and new earth which will be fully renewed under God’s uncontested reign are of far more value and importance.  Hence, Jesus commands to desire those eternal things, and here, not to fear temporal death or loss.  As Jim Elliot so eloquently put it before being martyred, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Therefore we need to seek the Lord and His will.  Live for His purposes and Kingdom.  Fear no opposition or loss.